“Today we commemorate our nation’s fallen heroes because it’s a day to remember and give thanks to our beloved war dead, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” said the Town of Huntingdon’s Memorial Day speaker Commander Debbie O’Bryant, US Navy (Retired).
The special 15th Annual Memorial Day ceremony was held Monday in Thomas Park at 10 a.m.
Commander O’Bryant joined the Navy in 1978 and over the 32-year span of service she has been a part of numerous assignments and gained numerous awards and medals during this period. She is married to Commander Tom O”Bryant, US Navy (Retired), who is the Carroll County Veterans Service officer.
Mayor Dale Kelley, who noted her accomplishments while introducing her, said that Thomas Park was once the location of the train depot.
“Many Carroll Countians boarded the train here for war time destinations,” he said. “It’s appropriate and nostalgic for our ceremony today. Our purpose is to take advantage of this national holiday to make sure we continue pausing for a day to remember those who died in military service for America and our veterans currently serving in the armed force and to celebrate our patriotism as a community.”
O’Bryant recalled that in 1964 when she was a little girl that she attended her first Memorial Day event.
She said she stood on the cobblestone streets in Staten Island, New York and watched with awe as the men assembled 10 abreast preparing to march.
“They looked to be of every age,” she said. “The men who could not walk were pushed along in wheel chairs behind their fellow veterans and some had missing arms and legs.”
She mentioned that they marched for three city blocks and then everyone quickly followed to an area where there was a stage. The band continued playing patriot music until all the veterans were in position out front and those who could not stand had seats facing the crowd. Hundreds of people came out to watch, pay their respects and to her from the local leaders in the community and to hear the distinguished speaker.
“Every year since 1964, I have attended on most occasions both Memorial Day and Veterans Day events,” she sad. “Hearing those speakers made an early impression on me, my sister, Retired Master Sgt.
Linda Drew, United States Air Force, and my brother, Brian Drew, Retired Commander of the United States Navy.”
She told the gathering that these programs instilled in herself, her sister and brother the need to be of service to America and to the country and communities in which they lived.
In closing, she said, “You may be the one in this audience to encourage a young person to join the military by encouraging them to become someone who will serve with honor, courage and commitment.”
Veterans were recognized and stood at the playing of the anthem of the branch of service in which they served.
Among the veterans present were Charlie Hayden and Steve Barocsi, both of Huntingdon, who said they lost friends in the Vietnam War era.
Hayden said he was in the Navy from 1962-’65. Most of his time was served in Cuba, although he did serve eight months in Vietnam. He said he lost two buddies, Gary Griswall and Dennis Taylor.
Barocsi, who was in the Army, said he knew several who were killed in service and recalled especially one, Sgt. Larmore.
Huntingdon Troop 73 Boy Scouts of America presented the colors at the beginning of the ceremony, retired the colors and placed the memorial wreath near the monument where names of those who paid the supreme sacrifice are listed.
The “National Anthem” and also “America the Beautiful” were sung by Miss Dixie PAC 2017 Yvannah Garcia during the service.
Huntingdon Public Works director Randy Crossett raised the American flag with “Taps” being played by Huntingdon High School student Brayden Campbell.
Rev. Lynn Stapleton, pastor of Huntingdon Missionary Baptist Church, closed the ceremony with prayer.