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As people lined the parade route in Poland waiting for Monday morning’s activities to begin, it was easy to understand how some in the crowd see Memorial Day as something the rest of us can never truly comprehend.
“It’s hard to describe it, but you have to experience it to really know what it is like,” said U.S. Navy veteran Bill Hegarty.
Hegarty served in the Navy in the late 1950’s aboard the U.S.S. Forrestal.
“And when I was aboard, we lost a pilot from my squadron that died at sea. It’s a thing I think about,” Hegarty said.
Others who served and then came back to start careers and families remembered whose who never did.
“I couldn’t help but think of a fella from Boardman. He and I were on R & R together in Tokyo. He was killed two weeks later,” said Army veteran Harry Van Brocklin.
These days, his wife sees a change in the way people treat service members.
“When he wears his Korean war cap, people will say ‘thank you so much,’ thank you so much’,” said Jeanette Van Brocklin.
Guest speaker was former Congressman John Boccieri, who is a Lieutenant Colonel and pilot with the Air Reserve Station in Vienna. He told the crowd that while people honor the nation’s war dead on this holiday, there is something more.
“It’s about the living. This holiday is for all of us, so that we will remember their service, remember their lives,” Boccieri said.
And organizers stressed many who gave their all also have families.
“The children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent. Spouses will be without their life partner. Parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters that died way too early,” said Jeff Vrabel, a member of the American Legion Post 15.
And that is something organizers said we need to remember more often than just on the last Monday each May.