'In its reflection, we are one' with the monument
THARPTOWN - Wheelchair-bound Gold Star Mother Margaret Yoder, of Coal Township, who proudly waved her son's military picture Saturday while participating in The Moving Wall ceremony, symbolized the feelings of the large crowd that gathered at the Tharptown playground to pay tribute to more than 58,000 men and women killed in the Vietnam War or missing in action.
Yoder's display of emotion over her late son, Staff Sgt. Marine Edward W. Yoder Jr., was part of a very inspirational program featuring main speaker Andy Bubnis, a retired U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam.
Prayers and blessings were offered by longtime attorney and active community member Myron Moskowitz and lay speaker Ronald Marcheskie of St. John's United Methodist Church, Coal Township, who poured out his heart in telling the audience about the sacrifices made by all veterans through the years and the gratitude they deserve.
The ceremony also involved the traditional erection of the battlefield cross by veterans, the laying of a military wreath near the site of the cross and patriotic tunes by the Choraliers, including the national anthem and armed forces medley recognizing all military branches.
Sgt. Marc Burlile, of Fountain Springs, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 19 years, served as master of ceremonies during the hour-long program that was held under clear blue skies. Burlile has a cousin whose name is on the wall.
Bubnis, a native of Kulpmont and longtime teacher who resides in Elysburg, enlisted in the Marines May 30, 1962. He deployed to the Mekong Delta with advisory team 54 in Rach Gia and advisory team 96 in Can Tho, working to provide air and naval gun support to U.S. Army Airborne divisions and allied nations, including the South Vietnamese Army. He earned the rank of sergeant and was honorably discharged Sept. 30, 1966.
The 69-year-old Bubnis thanked everyone who was involved in bringing the wall to the Shamokin area.
He said, "The wall provides an opportunity for us to reflect on this important period in our individual lives and our nation's history. The wall reaches out to us who served, and even those who did not serve, while deeply touching all of us who lost friends, neighbors and loved ones during the Vietnam War."
He added, "The mystical nature of the wall is found in its majestic simplicity. Panels of black stone that hold not only the names of those who died but, in its mirror-like finish, the faces of all of us who come to witness its solemn statement. In that reflection, we are made one with the monument."
He talked about the sacrifices, courage and dedication of the service men and women who gave their lives and the love they shared with their comrades.
"We remember, as we honor our men and women who died defending the United States of America, that their patriotism carries a high price. Freedom is not free. It must be fought for to keep. They do not feel the pride that wells in our hearts, nor comprehend the honor we bestow on them for their sacrifice."
Bubnis told the crowd that their presence at the ceremony and Memorial Day festivities is a tribute to all service men and women who made the supreme sacrifice for their country.
He concluded his talk by reciting a poem by U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran Guy Jones entitled, "A Tear For Those Who Gave Their All."
Bubnis, like other veterans in the crowd, broke down in tears as he read the poem.
Moskowitz, who served overseas in the U.S. Army during World War II, said it was fitting to have such a tribute to the men and women who are memorialized on The Moving Wall. He offered a prayer for all living and deceased veterans.
"It's important to practice the principles and ideals our forefathers established and remember the souls of all our honored dead who preserved the freedoms of America," said Moskowitz.
Marcheskie, a Vietnam War veteran, aptly described the men and women listed on The Moving Wall as "heroes."
"They must never be forgotten," he said. "This is a day of remembrance and celebration. We can never forget their sacrifices and courage. Each name on the wall represents a life that our nation owes tremendous gratitude. They put their lives on the line every day so we can enjoy democracy and freedom."
Marcheskie, who has classmates and other friends listed on the wall, briefly talked about his own wartime experiences. "I saw it and lived it, and I was lucky to return home," he said.
But Marcheskie said he still feels badly about the reception Vietnam War veterans received when they returned from the war.
He thanked God for providing veterans who are responsible for the many freedoms Americans enjoy.
During the erection of the battlefield cross led by Burlile that honors soldiers killed in the line of duty, Sol Bidding, one of the local organizers involved in bringing the wall to the area, presented a rifle, while fellow local Vietnam veteran Ken Feese Sr. carried a helmet. John Flynn, a Vietnam veteran from Girardville, carried dog tags and military boots to the battlefield cross. Bubnis presented an American flag, and Tanya Ladika, of Strong, a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, delivered a rose.
Later in the program, Yoder and another Gold Star Mother, Sally McMonegal, of Girardville, presented a wreath in honor of the war dead.
Yoder's son was wounded in Vietnam and died in 2005. McMonegal's son, John J. McMonegal, was a private first class in the U.S. Marines who was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
At the end of the ceremony, Bidding presented Ladika and Burlile's wife, Beth, with flowers for their outstanding assistance with The Moving Wall project.
Members of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard served as an honor guard at the ceremony. Line Mountain High School students Shjon Kern and Christopher Feliciano played taps.
In addition to Bidding, other committee members of The Moving Wall Project under the Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities are Garth Hall and Bob Barnett.
Veterans organization sponsors include Northumberland County League of Veterans, Marine Corps League 846, Shamokin American Legion Post 73, Northumberland American Legion Post 44, Selinsgrove American Legion Post 25 and Mount Carmel VFW Post 2110.
The wall will remain open to viewing 24 hours a day through 3 p.m. Monday.