Nearly 100 gathered Sunday afternoon at Pleasant Valley Cemetery, after having made the walk from St. Matthew’s United Church of Christ, to honor those who’ve died in military service to their country — just as people have done for more than a century at the site.
Donna Geiman, on behalf of the Pleasant Valley Community Memorial Service volunteers, welcomed attendees and noted that the earliest reference to the service was from a newspaper in 1918. She recognized Angela Bowersox, who has helped put on the event for the past 41 but could not be there Sunday.
Geiman said the cemetery is the final resting place for 130 veterans.
It is tradition that the walkers carry flowers and flags to place on the graves of the many veterans from the surrounding community that are buried in the cemetery. The ceremony included music playing while flags were placed, the national anthem, songs, including “The Ones Who Didn’t Make it Back Home,” sung by Phyllis Clark, the names of the 130 veterans buried in the cemetery read by Geiman, a prayer and benediction.
This year’s speaker was Westminster Councilmember Kevin E. Dayhoff, a local historian, Times columnist and Westminster Fire Department chaplain as well as a veteran.
“Memorial Day serves as a stark reminder that we have an overwhelming responsibility to those who have given their lives for our country,” he told the audience. “In the memory of those who have died for our country, we have a responsibility to live a life of commitment and service to our country.”
He discussed his Vietnam-era service, talked about previous speakers at the event and went into some of the history of the service and cemetery.
Dayhoff noted that three native sons of Pleasant Valley have lost their lives while in service to our country. They were honored by the community at the June 1, 1947 dedication of the war memorial in town.
That year, a 40-page program for the ceremonies was dedicated to the three who were killed in World War II: Lt. Richard S. Brown, Pvt. William O. Hiner, and Lt. John D. Leister.
Brown was a graduate of Westminster High School in 1941. He was killed on Jan. 16, 1945 in Northern France. Hiner was killed on Feb. 2, 1945, in Neuhof, Germany. Leister graduated from Westminster High School in 1938. At age 23, he was killed on March 21, 1944, in Italy.
“It is our duty and responsibility as citizens, to remember these brave sons of Carroll County and never forget the men and women who know all too well the cost of our freedom, for their service to our country is the greatest gift of all,” Dayhoff told the attendees near the end of his speech.
“To all those who have served and are currently serving, today is a reminder that we must never take our bountiful blessings or our freedom for granted. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done and will continue to do to guarantee our way of life. We stand in awe at your commitment.”
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Linda Pittman, a member of the Wm. F. Myers and Sons Bands, played taps and Greg Wantz played echo taps at the conclusion of the ceremony.