CECIL COUNTY — More than one million U.S. servicemen and servicewomen have made the supreme sacrifice while defending this country and its freedom over the past two and a half centuries — and on Monday, they were honored during Memorial Day services throughout Cecil County.
“Ever since eight members of the Lexington Militia lost their lives in the first battle of the American Revolution, soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsman have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Retired U.S. Army Maj. General Kirk F. Vollmecke told the crowd Monday afternoon during the Memorial Day ceremony at Cecil County Memorial VFW Post 6027 in North East.
Vollmecke had already explained, “On Memorial Day — and for that matter, every day of the year — it is important that we never forget the sacrifices that more than 1.2 million brave Americans have made.”
Among those who lost their lives defending this country are servicemen and servicewomen who hailed from Cecil County, making the Memorial Day ceremonies here on Monday that much more personal, that much more emotional — particularly for the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and other Gold Star family members in attendance, as well as the local friends of the fallen.
“Today is a day that we dedicate and pay tribute to our friends and relatives who gave their lives for our great nation,” Vollmecke summarized.
Some two hours earlier, during the Memorial Day ceremony at American Legion Susquehanna Post 135 in Perryville, the guest speaker, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald J. Graves expressed his hope that citizens today would be mindful of the servicemen and servicewomen who made the supreme sacrifice decades and even centuries ago, as well as of those who did so more recently while defending this country.
“This Memorial Day, I hope that we can remember the link we have with all the generations that have gone before us who selflessly served our country and paid the ultimate price,” said Graves, who is stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground as part of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command.
He continued, “From the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq back to the American Revolution, our soldiers continuously put the welfare of our nation, the Army, and their fellow soldiers before their own. It is a reminder of the true cost of war, and a reminder to honor those who died while answering the call to serve our nation. Today, we pay special tribute to the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Fittingly, amid that Memorial Day service, an unveiling ceremony was held for the new monument memorializing those servicemen and servicewoman from Perryville and Port Deposit who made the supreme sacrifice over the past several decades. (The former monument was old and deteriorating — unable to withstand the addition of other names if needed.)
It made sense to hold the dedication ceremony amid the Memorial Day service, according to Charles Thomas, a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1960 through 1963. A life American Legion Susquehanna Post 135 member, Thomas was a driving force in acquiring the new memorial monument, some of his fellow veterans told the Cecil Whig.
“Memorial Day — it’s the perfect time to do it,” Thomas said of the dedication ceremony.
Other Memorial Day events had taken place on Sunday.
In Port Deposit, members of the Jerry Skrivanek Memorial VFW Post 8185 held a pair of ceremonies early Sunday morning. While the rain may have affected turnout, those who did attend honored the memory of the namesake of the post and remembered all the men and women who served and are now gone.
“It is entirely fitting that we do so as it demonstrates our commitment to support our fellow veterans, our community and our honored dead,” said Commander William Ward.
Skrivanek died in combat in Sicily in 1943 and was the first Port Deposit resident to die in World War II.
Albert Owens, past commander of the post on Susquehanna Road, was touched as flowers were placed on Skrivanek’s grave at Harmony Chapel.
“It’s an emotional moment,” Owens said. He held back tears as he offered a salute.
At the waterfront monument in downtown Port Deposit, members of Scouts BSA Troop 555, which is chartered by VFW Post 8185, got Marina Park ready for the ceremony. That included shoveling away rain water that surrounded the large marker along the promenade.