Each year we, as a nation, pause to honor and remember more than 1 million men and women who have given their lives in service to our nation.

The end of May is a most appropriate time for this special remembrance. The world is alive with flowering colors and the greennessof new life. The season serves as a stark reminder of those who willnever again see the majesty of spring.

Those Americans who have given their lives for peace and freedom in wars fought since the Revolutionary War rest in 109 national cemeteries in this country and 24 military cemeteries overseas.

American soldiers have fought and died from Bunker Hill to Gettysburg. From the deserts of Iraq and Kuwait to the Pacific waters. They have fought from the hills of Korea to the rice paddies of Vietnam.

These Americans have fought not in conquest, not to gain land, but rather they have fought in defense of freedom for this nation and others.

OnMay 5, 1868, John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued the following order: "The 30th day of May 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the last rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.

"In this observance, no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respectas circumstances may permit."

Since then, there has been an observance in Westminster.

The general chairman of this year's event isPaul Smith, who has served in this capacity since 1987.

Smith tells me that Mary Shellman, a community mover and shaker in her day, served as the first organizer and chairperson of the event. After WorldWar I, the American Legion, Carroll Post 31, assumed the reins of leadership and continues to do so to this day.

The list of past chairmen and grand marshals reads like a Carroll County Who's Who and includes the late Albert Mitten, former post commander, Kale Mathias, a former city official, and Atlee Wampler, World War II veteran and county businessman.

This year's celebration, the 124th, is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 27. It will wind its way from Belle Grove Square on Bond Street up West Green Street to Maryland Avenue and right on to West Main Street. It will proceed east on Main Street to Church Street,then to the Westminster Cemetery where memorial tributes are scheduled for 11 a.m.

Chairman Smith always invited Vietnam veterans to speak at the cemetery service. This year's featured speaker will be Lt. Col. Joseph M. Cinquino, professor of military science at Western Maryland College.

The Westminster Municipal Band, Westminster High School Marching Band and the Carroll Christian Academy Band are scheduled to participate, also.

The mayor and council members are expected. A color guard, made up of Westminster's finest from the police department, will be there along with members of the fire department.

Gold Star Mothers will be riding in a place of honor. They know thesacrifices families make in wartime. They have lost their children to war.

Walking and riding together in the parade will be veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.

A unit from the Maryland National Guard will present a 17-gun salute.

County service clubs and fraternal organizations will be joined by Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies and 4-H members as they all march to the cemetery and place wreaths at the Mound as part of the solemn observations.

The place to be next Monday morning is Westminster. Pack up your family and come to downtown Westminster.

Be a part of this 124-year tradition of remembrance. Honor the men and women of our nation who gave the last full measure, who gave their all, so that wecould continue to live in freedom.

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