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Annual ceremony in Arbutus starts Memorial Day on proper note

Marine Corps Pfc. Joseph Tebo bowed his head during the prayer that was part of the brief annual ceremony honoring veterans at the flagpole in downtown Arbutus on May 27.
Marine Corps Pfc. Joseph Tebo bowed his head during the prayer that was part of the brief annual ceremony honoring veterans at the flagpole in downtown Arbutus on May 27. (Photo by Noah Scialom)

No bands played. The brassy sound of horns and booming thud of drums are for the July Fourth celebration.

Memorial Day is a more somber occasion.

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At the corner of Sulphur Spring Road and East Drive, Phil Penne played his bagpipes, warming up before the start of Monday morning's annual Memorial Day ceremony in downtown Arbutus.

Down the street, 18 United States flags snapped in the breeze as members of the Dewey Lowman American Legion Post 109's 27 Flags Unit made their final preparations to start the May 27 event.

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"This is small town America at its finest," said Del. Steven DeBoy, who represents District 12B that includes Arbutus and Catonsville. "This is small town America coming out to remember the folks who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

The crowd began to build a little before 10 a.m. Monday. The morning quiet was broken an occasional shout of recognition between old friends. But for most, there was silence, with some stealing thoughtful glances at the huge flag hanging at half-mast at the intersection.

Mixed in with the crowd of older couple and young families were several older men wearing caps signifying their status as veterans. Most marked membership in the Arbutus Legion Post. Some had hats with dates of when the wearer had served. Others' hats had insignias for their branch of the Armed Forces.

Pete Summers wore a "USMC" baseball cap. He joined the Marine Corps on July 2, 1984, only a few weeks after graduating from Catonsville High, he said.

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His 12 years in the Corps included five trips to Japan, he said.

"I traveled, learned different languages. When you're not warring, it's alright," he said.

When he awoke Monday morning, he considered the men and women whose experience had been in war.

"I thought about all the veterans, past and present. Some made it home. Some didn't," he said.

The sound of traffic on Arbutus' main street began to increase. The crowd gradually filled the sidewalk from the Hollywood Theatre to the corner, eventuall numbering more than 100.

A few checked out the motorcycles parked along the street next to the movie theater by members of the American Legion Riders who also attended the ceremony

"I see a lot of young people," said Del. James Malone, who also represents District 12B. "When I went on Facebook this morning, I saw how many young people were saying, 'Remember the veterans.' and "Remember to say thank-you.' and 'Please pray for our veterans.'

"I think you are seeing more and more young people coming out," Malone said.

The longtime legislator said his father had served as a sergeant in the Army.

"The most important thing to me is that my son and daughter, and their sons and daughters, remember this day," he said.

The ceremony lasted less than 20 minutes. It included speeches by the Arbutus Legion Post leaders and 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk, speaking on behalf of the area's representatives that included DeBoy, Malone and state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, who was also at the ceremony.

"Memorial Day should not be a day of mourning," Quirk told the crowd. "Instead, it should be a reverent celebration for the true heroes of this country."

Cass Schreiner sang the National Anthem and encouraged the crowd to join her in singing "God Bless America." Neither song had any musical accompaniment.

There was a closing prayer, then the 27 Flags Unit marched off as Phil Penne played "Taps" on his bagpipes.

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