In a stirring talk about what it means to serve your country, the featured speaker at Bel Air’s 34th annual Memorial Day Ceremony invoked the Battle of Kohima Poem from World War II.
“For their tomorrow, we gave today,” retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer 5 Sase “Roy” Singh said, as he looked over a crowd of 400 to 500 people gathered in Shamrock Park, an outpouring of support that the speaker couldn’t help but remarking about.
“This is an incredible show of honor and respect for those we remember on this day,” Singh told the crowd, which filled the bowl of the park’s William A. Humbert and well beyond.
Every branch of the military service was represented, as well as the veterans groups that make the annual ceremony possible.
Though a light drizzle was falling shortly before the ceremony began with a medley of patriotic songs played by the Bel Air Community Band, under the direction of Scott Sharnetzka, the drizzle let up, just as the morning’s program began.
In brief opening remarks, Harford American Legion Post 39 past commander Richard Gebhard, who coordinates the annual ceremony, talked about the 1 million men and women who have died serving their country since the American Revolution.
“It’s a group nobody wants to join, but who have given so much,” he said, paying particular homage to several Gold Star families who were among those in the park.
For them, Gebhard said, the fallen are remembered “every day… they still hear the voices of those they have lost.”
Monday’s ceremony featured the traditional laying of wreaths in front of the amphitheater by local organizations including American Legion Harford Post 39 — with Gold Star Father Roy Shanklin, American Legion Bel Air Post 55, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America — Harford County Chapter 588, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Sons of the American Legion — Squadron 39, Marine Corps League Cpl. Pete Arnold Detachment 1196, Military Officers Association of America Susquehanna Chapter, Jobs Daughter International Bethal 35 and Bel Air Branch of Demolay — Nelson T. Briggs Chapter.
This year’s youth address with the theme “What Memorial Day Means to Me,” was presented by Jakob DeMarino of Southamption Middle School, Team 7A.
Singh, who served 30 years with the Marines, said of those sitting and standing before him, “We don’t have to look far for patriotism; your presence here today is what patriotism is all about.”
As if on cue, the clock tower downtown began to toll noon as Army retired Sgt. 1st Class Ron Bauerle sounded taps on his bugle, and the bells of nearby St. Margaret Church also began to sound the noon hour.
It’s a tradition to end each year’s Memorial Day remembrance in Bel Air with the singing of “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful,” by Don Teesdale, a chief warrant officer with the Maryland Army National Guard, accompanied by the Bel Air Community Band.
Before he began, Teesdale recalled a story about Douglas McArthur as a boy, witnessing his father, also a military man, crying during a ceremony to remember falling troops.
“It’s OK to cry, just not from fear,” McArthur’s mother is said to have told her son.
“So, don’t be afraid to sing along with me,” Teesdale told the gathering.
And sing many of them did. Loud and true.