Linda Domby kept a small American flag on the right side of her head — held in place by her sunglasses — and a paper red poppy flower on the left side as she watched the annual Memorial Day proceedings in Veterans Memorial Park in Aberdeen.
People gathered in the park at North Parke and North Rogers streets for the annual event, led this year by the VFW’s Aberdeen Memorial Post 10028, as city leaders joined with veterans service organizations to honor the nation’s military service members who died during wartime.
“Lord, touch our hearts, that we may not never forget this day, Lord, and what this day is all about,” David Mial, past chaplain for the VFW’s Maryland District 5, said as he delivered the benediction toward the end of the ceremony.
Mial asked God to “be with the families of those that have gone on to Glory” and to “comfort them like only You can.”
Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady was the guest speaker, and he also delivered the closing remarks. McGrady read, during his closing, a Facebook post written by his friend, West Virginia state Del. S. Marshall Wilson, in honor of those who died during war.
Wilson, who is also an officer in the Maryland Army National Guard, wrote that Memorial Day is set aside to remember “the men and women who purchased our Liberty with their lives.”
“We call them ‘brave,’ and they were — at least in the moment when we most needed them to be,” Wilson wrote. “They were men and women just like you and me. They had mortgages, favorite songs, dark and weak moments, hopes and concerns for their children, and a moment when they recognized the value of Liberty.”
McGrady called Wilson’s post “so poignant” that he wanted to share it with those in attendance for the Aberdeen ceremony.
The even included the laying of wreaths at the park memorial, a playing of “Taps” by the honor guard of the American Legion’s Bernard L. Tobin Post 128 in Aberdeen and performances by the Aberdeen Middle School band and chorus.
Domby, an Abingdon resident, later talked about the four members of her family who “served our country well” in the military, including her father, who was in World War II, a brother who served in the Vietnam War and a second brother stationed in South Korea, as well as her son who was in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
All four of those relatives made it back home, according to Domby and her sister, Donna Baker, of Aberdeen.
“We’re just thankful that our family members came home to us,” Baker said.
Domby talked about “those who served, those who have passed [away] and those who are still serving,” noting that “we’re still having wars, we’re still having problems in the world, and our men and women are still fighting for our freedom.”
She said it is their service that allows Americans to “celebrate and remember” service members.
“Without them, what would our country be today?” Domby asked.
Shannon Clark, who grew up in Aberdeen, attended Monday’s ceremony with her mother, Paula, and father, Charles — her parents still reside in Aberdeen. Paula Clark is a life member of a VFW post in Michigan and a Disabled American Veterans chapter in Bel Air.
Charles Clark is a junior vice commander with the Maryland DAV and a past commander of DAV Chapter 15 in Havre de Grace. The Army veteran served in Vietnam and Desert Storm.
Shannon Clark reiterated comments the mayor made about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day — the latter, which is observed during November, is a time to honor living veterans of the military.
“Today is a day that you’re remembering people that have fallen in honor of our country,” she said of Memorial Day. “That’s a pretty huge sacrifice to make on our behalf.”
The Aberdeen VFW hosted a luncheon at its post on Old Philadelphia Road after the ceremony. Army veteran and 40-year VFW member Nick Guerra was among those attending.
The 90-year-old Aberdeen resident was in the Army from 1947 to 1969. He served in the Korean War and was in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.
Guerra said he was part of the U.S. force that occupied Japan after its defeat in World War II, and he and his fellow troops were sent to South Korea when Communist North Korea invaded the south in 1950.
Guerra, who noted that “war is just an unpleasant experience,” talked about the differences in Americans’ attitudes toward military service between when he joined in the 1940s and left in the late ‘60s, when many people were protesting the Vietnam War, and young Americans burned their draft cards in an act of defiance as the war ground on and their peers died in a conflict that seemed pointless to more and more people.
He said that, when he enlisted, “if you weren’t in uniform [when] there was a war going on, people looked at you like you were out of place.”
“The spirit of service was a lot different,” he recalled. “People wanted to go and fight the enemy.”
Guerra noted that, today, “people still have the feeling of patriotism” in the U.S.