Veterans honored at Bel Air ceremony Sunday

Veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere gathered at Bel Air Memorial Gardens Sunday afternoon to honor everyone who has ever served in the U.S. military.

American Legion Harford Post 39 hosted the Veterans Day ceremony, held in front of the statue of the late Capt. H. Merle Bailey, a bomber pilot in World War II.


Veterans were honored elsewhere in and around the county, in Aberdeen and Perryville Sunday and in Havre de Grace Monday.

Before the ceremony, people walked around the portion of the cemetery named "Garden of Whispering Pines" where many veterans are buried, American flags and bouquets of flowers marking their graves.


Former post commander Dick Gebhard greeted the group of 30 or so attendees and spoke about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

While Memorial Day is a time to reflect on our military men and women who died in the line of action, Veterans Day is a day to "thank, honor and serve those who have put on a uniform and served their country," he said.

Walter Mueller, also a past post commander and a Vietnam veteran, recalled the first time he visited Bel Air Memorial Gardens.

More than two decades ago Mueller's wife came across the statue of Capt. Bailey after services for a friend. Mueller wanted to see it for himself and found it by the graves of many veterans, including memorials to many who are buried overseas or who were lost at sea.

This sight reminded Mueller of all the people "who never go on to be veterans and enjoy the things we do."

He also asked everyone not to forget those serving today because they, too, are veterans.

"Our young are stepping forward to take care of us." Mueller said.

The American Legion and VFW posts are a meeting place for many veterans, Mueller said, places where a person can "sit next to a guy, not even know him, and listen and you understand what he went through."

"This nation is as great as it is because of Merle Bailey [and] all of those who stepped forward," Mueller said.

He asked everyone to remember to hug and thank the veterans in their lives.

Bel Air resident John Gostomski Jr., a Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force, attended the ceremony with son-in-law, Craig Raborg.

Gostomski said he attends every year, and on Memorial Day, as well, "so everybody remembers that it is important [for] the veterans."


He commented that coming back from Vietnam he and other military members didn't receive much recognition because so many people were against the war.

Now, he continued, he gets a lot of people thanking him for his service.

It was important for Raborg, who also lives in Bel Air, to come and show his support.

"I always wanted to be in the military, but I couldn't take that route," he said. Both Raborg's grandfather and Gostomski's father served in World War II.

While "nobody wants war," Gostomski said, "it's a necessary evil." Because of that, he continued, it's important to honor the ones "looking out for everyone else."

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