Havre de Grace pays tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice

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Havre de Grace Police Chief Teresa Walter never served in the military, but as a law enforcement officer who comes from a military family, she feels honor and duty to her country.

Walter, the city’s chief for 13 years and whose husband, father, sister and nephew either have served or are serving in the military, said it’s important to remember those who have died and not to diminish their sacrifices.

“Let us not forget those who have given everything for our country,” Walter said.

Some of the former military members who have joined the ranks of law enforcement are among the best colleagues she has worked with, Walter said.

“They understand the dedication, the service, the sacrifice, the personal responsibility and of course, love for their country,” Walter said told the crowd of about 200 who were gathered in Tydings Park for the city’s Memorial Day ceremony. “We are here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication.”

“We are thankful for the sacrifices. When I think of the heroes here today, those among us, those who have passed and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” she said, “I feel honored and humbled to be standing in your presence.”

The country needs to remember the families of those who have died as well as the heroes who responded when they were called to serve.

“I truly believe the military is the only organization that is uniting our country and that’s due to the brave men and women who are dedicated and serve, or who have served,” Walter said. “They understand the need for country, they understand the need for service.”

At Monday’s ceremony, Bill Mentzer paid tribute to the POWs and MIAs with the Missing Man table, an empty seat with a white tablecloth and lemon and salt on the plate to represent the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.

“We can’t be with our loved ones to we pay tribute to them,” Mentzer said.

The words of Mentzer’s brother, Noble Mentzer, an Army and Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, at the July 4th parade in Havre de Grace last summer rang true Monday.

As grand marshal of the parade, Noble Mentzer, who died Friday, spoke last July about his love for Havre de Grace, and his country.

Rather than make his own remarks, Havre de Grace Mayor William T. Martin replayed Mr. Mentzer’s comments from the parade at Monday’s ceremony.

Mr. Mentzer recalled being the keynote speaker for a Memorial Day ceremony in Havre de Grace, where he told a story about a fifth-grader and leaving school to march to an old cemetery and place a flower on graves of veterans of World War I and the Spanish-American War. They listened to speeches by politicians and commanders of American Legions and VFWs.

After it was over, taps was played.

“And for some reason that boy could not explain, the chills ran up and down his back, and when the taps were returned from a distant place in the cemetery, the chills were more intimidating,” Mr. Mentzer said. “And today, that boy stands before you, as proud as I can be when they play the taps, and the chills will be intimidating and lasting forever,” Mr. Mentzer said.

Guest speaker David Craig, executive director of the World War I Centennial Commission and former Harford County executive and Havre de Grace mayor, geared his comments to what was supposed to be the “war to end all wars,” but which “started a lot of others once the war was actually over,” he said.

In that war, the “Havre de Grace boys” as he called them, had to go to Bel Air to register their names for the draft, but many enlisted directly.

The nation’s military eventually grew to 4.5 million, he said, about 52,000 men from Maryland. Another 10,000 women volunteered – half of them nurses, the other half who were sent to help service members.

Of the 52,000, Craig said, 11,000 were African American, then called colored soldiers, and Havre de Grace was the first city in the state to put those soldiers on its monument with other WWI soldiers.

Forty-five from Harford County, including eight “Havre de Grace boys” made the supreme sacrifice, he said.

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