Three wars spanning generations reflected in one week of local news


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Patriotism peaks during the week of Memorial Day, and that's always reflected in the pages of The News-Item. Our goal is to cover as many Memorial Day parades and programs as possible to reflect the effort by those who are dedicated to remembering the fallen.

In 2014, however, Memorial Day coverage was only the beginning of what has become an extremely poignant week of front-page local news that spans numerous generations and the tragedies and triumphs of three wars.

It's been known for months that local folks had arranged a visit of The Moving Wall, a smaller replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., the weekend after Memorial Day. The wall arrived Thursday with much fanfare and respect, and tens of thousands are expected to visit the traveling memorial over the weekend and into Monday. They'll pay their respects and search for the names of loved ones and friends who died during the Vietnam War.

But today is cause for the region to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice paid by a local soldier from another war. It's 10 years since Shamokin area native U.S. Army Capt. Robert C. Scheetz Jr. died from injuries suffered one day earlier while serving his country in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On March 20 of this year, we had also recognized the 10-year anniversary of the death of U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew J. Sandri, of Shamokin, who was also killed in action in Iraq. It's worth noting that just last week, the Dog Tag Beer that salutes Sandri and other fallen soldiers hit local distributorships and barrooms, which we're told in many cases have sold out.

Perhaps the most unique and unexpected headlines related to war tributes came from Wednesday's dedication of a fieldhouse at ballfields in Springfield operated by Shamokin's Mother Carbini Church. The building has been named in memory of U.S. Army Capt. and Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun, who earned the Medal of Honor and is under consideration for sainthood for his unselfish devotion to his Catholic faith and fellow soldiers while at battle and as a prisoner of war. He died in a North Korean prison camp on May 23, 1951 - 63 years ago last week.

The dedication attracted a number of Korean War veterans and other dignitaries, including Maj. Gen. Shin Kyoung Soo, defense attache for the Republic of Korea at the U.S. Embassy in Washington, D.C.

It may be a long time until we see such diverse and significant military recognition locally in just one week. But we trust the patriotism it generated won't soon fade.

(Andy Heintzelman, editor of The News-Item, writes "The Week In News" for Saturday's edition.)

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