From current enlisted troops dressed in battle fatigues and marching with their weaponry to veterans of conflicts half a century ago marching in their dress uniforms, Carlisle’s Memorial Day parade brought together living veterans from every major conflict since World War II.
Under cloudless blue skies, the parade solemnly marched down Hanover Street, ending on Veterans’ Square, where the rest of the morning’s activities took place.
Among the floats in the parade was a representation of the POW/MIAs, which included a flag-draped casket attended by “soldiers,” and a field of blue decorated with gold stars that bore a sign, “Here we mark the price of freedom.”
Beginning during World War I, gold stars were used to represent a loved one killed in battle. The custom grew out of the service flag, which had blue stars on a white field, symbolizing loved ones — fathers, brothers, uncles — away at war. If they were killed, the stars were changed to gold.
The keynote speaker was Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-199, who acknowledged the enormity of the task before him.
“I’ve thought and prayerfully pondered for months about what I would say here, what I could say here. What words of mine could even begin to deliver honor worthy of our fallen heroes and their brothers and sisters in arms present with us today? Over and over again, as I considered this speech, I would reach the same overwhelming conclusion: I am not worthy, they are. I am not worthy — American soldiers, American veterans, you are,” Bloom said.
“It is our American military heroes, by their own lives and by giving their lives to a cause greater than themselves, who have written the real speeches, speeches that echo through the ages in the flesh and blood of their sacrifice. And these are the only worthy speeches for a day on which we assemble to honor them.
“Just down the road, on the other side of the South Mountain, President Lincoln expressed an understanding of the power of their actions as relevant today as it was in 1863, when the artillery scars on this courthouse were still as fresh as the soldiers’ graves among which Lincoln stood at Gettysburg,” Bloom said, gesturing to the front of the Old Courthouse, which still bears marks from the shelling in the summer of 1863.
“‘We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little not, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.’” Bloom said, quoting Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.
“To the brave men and women, living and dead, who served and sacrificed, we join in President Lincoln’s affirmation: You’ve already done it. And we can never forget what you did — never,” he added.
“In the Bible, in John chapter 15, verse 13, Jesus sets the bar high: ‘Great love has no one than this: To lay down one’s life for one’s friend.’ To our heroes, living and dead, those who clear that high bar, there’s nothing more I can say. Your lives testify, your sacrifices testify. You have hallowed this ground. Thank you. May God bless you and may God bless America,” he concluded.
After Bloom’s speech, a wreath was laid on the memorial while Taps was played. After a final benediction from the Rev. Walter R. Reed, the crowd of more than 100 people, who had sat in the hot sun for nearly an hour, dispersed quietly, many of them stopping to shake the hands of the men and women in uniform.