Gold Star Mother and Family Luminary honors fallen vets
HERNDON - Two military servicemen who died serving their country and their families were honored Sunday night during the third annual Gold Star Mother and Family Luminary Program at Alvin E. Long American Legion Post 504.
With numerous luminaries outlining the driveway leading to the post home, veterans, friends and members of the community paid tribute to U.S. Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Brett David Shadle and Army Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Deppen at a 50-minute program sponsored by Mothers and Others Support (MOS).
Shadle, a 2000 graduate of Upper Dauphin Area High School, died in a training accident March 28, 2013, in Arizona at the age of 31. The highly decorated combat veteran completed many deployments around the world in support of the Global War on Terrorism. The Navy SEAL is survived by his wife, Jennifer; a daughter, Savannah; a son, Christian; his parents, David and LuAnn Shadle, of Elizabethville, and his brother, Aaron.
Deppen, a son of Jerry and Joette Deppen, Dalmatia, died Dec. 17, 1993, from chemicals he encountered during his service in Operation Desert Storm. Deppen graduated from Line Mountain High School in 1986.
Retired U.S. Air Force Major Henry "Hank" A. Heim served as guest speaker at the program that also featured a candle lighting ceremony, recognition of the two Gold Star Mothers and their families, and musical selections by Loni Briner, of Dalmatia.
"The love and support shown tonight for our loved ones was overwhelming," commented Joette Deppen. "I can't thank everyone enough. It was very touching."
David Shadle also commended MOS for organizing the program that supports military families who lost loved ones serving their country.
"It was a very nice, organized ceremony and we appreciate all the support given to us," Shadle said.
Heim, who was born in Trevorton but grew up in Wiconisco, recalled his military service that included being stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese attacked, which initiated the United States' involvement in World War II.
Heim, who currently resides in New Cumberland, served in World War II and the Korean War. He flew 125 combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Presidential Unit Citation, two Purple Hearts and 13 Air medals.
He talked about his harrowing experience at Pearl Harbor in which he was wounded and almost killed, and also described how it felt being shot down as a pilot during World War II.
"I was only 19 during the Pearl Harbor attack," he said. "I was scared and figured I was going to die. We were told we had to stay and fight because there was no place to retreat. I was wounded, but wasn't nearly as bad off as the others I saw in the hospital. I had seen enough death and I later became a bomber pilot. I was a lucky dude."
Heim, who enlisted in the military July 2, 1940, earned his pilot wings Nov. 25, 1942. He said out of 205 in his pilot class, only 84 made it.
Rebecca Witmer, of Millersburg, who serves as president of MOS, praised Shadle and Deppen for their deep devotion to their country and called upon the parents of both servicemen to light small candles on a table near the entrance to the legion in honor of their sons. Heim also lit a candle in memory of all American heroes.
Witmer told the Shadles and Deppens that their sons will never be forgotten.
U.S. Army Major Erik Smith, of Millersburg, presented a welcoming address and also offered a prayer at the beginning and conclusion of the program.
Briner led the audience in the singing of the national anthem.
Taps was played by Donald and Sam Ferster.
Light refreshments were served after the program under a picnic pavilion at the post home.
MOS, whose members are from Dauphin and Northumberland counties, is sponsored by Alvin E. Long American Legion Post 504.
The last Sunday of September was designated in 1936 as "Gold Star Mother's Day" in the U.S.
The organization was named after the gold star that families hung in their windows in honor of a deceased veteran.