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The Village of Newcomerstown commemorated Memorial Day with a service at the West Lawn Cemetery on Monday, May 29.
The Master of Ceremony, Jason Miller, opened the ceremony by introducing the Posting of Colors presented by the Honor Guard, commanded by Van Scott III. Jason Miller then led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, which was proceeded by the Newcomerstown High School Band performing the "Star Spangled Banner," directed by Joel Hillwig. The invocation was led by Pastor Eric Miller of Calvary United Methodist and Kings Churches.
Miller then introduced Kathryn Montgomery, Newcomerstown High School's 2017 valedictorian, to share what Memorial Day meant to her. Montgomery said that "we know Memorial Day to be about cookouts and family getting together, but I wanted to know where it began." Montgomery then did some online research to find that Memorial Day began when families would go to the cemeteries and place flowers and flags at their loved ones grave site in honor of their service. Montgomery went on to say "that it traditionally also marked when summer would begin, and would be dedicated to those who gave their lives for their ultimate service to our country." She then said how "Memorial Day is more real and meaningful to those of us who have lost someone either during their service or in natural ways after serving our country for many years." Montgomery closed with reading John 15:13; "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends," and said that "Memorial Day to me is the celebration of the greatest act of love, and that we should be reminded that freedom isn't free and lives are priceless."
The main speaker for the ceremony, Newcomerstown High School Principal Matthew D. Fockler expanded the theme of sacrifice and true heroes.
In his speech, he said, "today is a time to reflect what a 'true' hero is, and how often we look to star athletes as 'heroes.' What sets a true hero apart from the sport athletes of our day and age, is the sacrifice that our fallen warriors had made, and our veterans, and current armed forces make for us daily," said Fockler.
Fockler gave three brief examples of our heroes past and present, who fought and continue to fight selflessly for us. One was a famous letter from Abraham Lincoln, to Mrs Bixby which reads:
Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864. Dear Madam,-- I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully, A. Lincoln
Fockler said, "they fought to rid the world of evil and keep it off our soil...We need to raise the next generation to know that we are not entitled to our freedoms that we have today, but rather know that every freedom we have was, and is, a gift, an honor to have and a privilege not a right owed to us."
Fockler then closed with the reading of the poem written by Charles M. Province entitled "It is the Soldier."
IT IS THE SOLDIER "It is the Soldier, not the minister Who has given us freedom of religion. It is the Soldier, not the reporter Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the Soldier, not the poet Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer Who has given us freedom to protest. It is the Soldier, not the lawyer Who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the Soldier, not the politician Who has given us the right to vote. It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag."
The ceremony closed with a benediction led by Pastor Eric Miller, and a salute by the Newcomerstown Veterans Honor Guard. The Newcomerstown High School Band played "Taps and Echo" which was proceeded by the Retrieval of the Colors by the Honor Guard.