ShareThis Page

Westmoreland honors its veterans

Jacob Tierney
| Monday, May 29, 2017, 3:45 p.m.
Shell casings fly as members of VFW Post No. 33 Honor Guard fire a 21-gun salute during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Shell casings fly as members of VFW Post No. 33 Honor Guard fire a 21-gun salute during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Ken Komlos, left, and Summer Cullen salute the departed after presenting a wreath on behalf of the Gold Star Mothers during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Ken Komlos, left, and Summer Cullen salute the departed after presenting a wreath on behalf of the Gold Star Mothers during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Alisha D'Astolfo, senior vice commander of the VFW Post No. 33, presents a wreath on behalf of the VFW during the Memorial Day  service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Alisha D'Astolfo, senior vice commander of the VFW Post No. 33, presents a wreath on behalf of the VFW during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Jean-Dominique Le Garrec, the honorary consul of France based in Pittsburgh, speaks about the long-standing relationship between his country and the United States during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jean-Dominique Le Garrec, the honorary consul of France based in Pittsburgh, speaks about the long-standing relationship between his country and the United States during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
John Massari, a VFW Post No. 33 honor guard bugler, plays 'Taps' during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
John Massari, a VFW Post No. 33 honor guard bugler, plays 'Taps' during the Memorial Day service at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Hundreds of people gathered  Monday, May 29, 2017. for a Memorial Day service at the Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Hundreds of people gathered Monday, May 29, 2017. for a Memorial Day service at the Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township.
Retired Marine Jon Murray of Greensburg holds his daughter, Skylar, during the Memorial Day service at the Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Retired Marine Jon Murray of Greensburg holds his daughter, Skylar, during the Memorial Day service at the Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
James Findle, a retired Army chief warrant officer, reads William A. Predeau's poem 'Thank A Vet' during the Memorial Day service at the Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
James Findle, a retired Army chief warrant officer, reads William A. Predeau's poem 'Thank A Vet' during the Memorial Day service at the Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Carl Smith, 93, of Greensburg, a WWII veteran and recipient of the French Legion of Honour medal, is recognized for his service during the Memorial Day celebration at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Carl Smith, 93, of Greensburg, a WWII veteran and recipient of the French Legion of Honour medal, is recognized for his service during the Memorial Day celebration at Westmoreland County Memorial Park in Hempfield Township on Monday, May 29, 2017.

Russell Moore Jr. makes a pilgrimage every Memorial Day from his home in Orlando, Fla., to a plastic folding chair in Westmoreland County Memorial Park.

He comes to honor his cousin, Earl W. Long.

“He and I served in Vietnam together. ... I escorted his body back from Vietnam. We buried him right over behind there,” Moore said, gesturing to a nearby hill.

Moore was one of hundreds who gathered Monday in the Hempfield Township cemetery for an annual ceremony honoring local veterans who have died throughout history.

The honor roll of Westmoreland County veterans who died since last Memorial Day was 85 names long.

The day began early for members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 33. Before heading to Memorial Park, they visited about a half-dozen other nearby cemeteries, laying wreaths and other items as well as performing a service at a randomly selected veteran's grave at each site.

Jean-Dominique Le Garrec, France's honorary consul in Pittsburgh, served as the keynote speaker. One of his duties as consul is awarding American World War II veterans the French Legion of Honour medal, his nation's highest award, for their role in liberating the country from Nazi Germany.

But on Monday he discussed an earlier war, the first occasion American troops fought Germans on French soil — 100 years ago in World War I.

“The Americans were lighthearted, cheerful, enthusiastic and dismissive of difficulties,” Garrec said. “ ‘We will soon settle this,' was the doughboy's attitude, and they did. ... Nothing had to happen the way it happened. History could have gone the other way.”

More than 116,000 U.S. servicemen died fighting over two years in World War I.

“They didn't die in vain,” Le Garrec said. “The American spirit is alive.”

A familiar face was missing from this year's ceremony.

Karen Markovitz presented a wreath in honor of Gold Star Mothers every Memorial Day for years, carrying on a duty that once belonged to her mother, Rosemary Cullen, who served as president of the local Gold Star Mothers organization. Markovitz died in November.

Summer Cullen on Monday placed the wreath for the first time, taking over the tradition for her aunt and grandmother.

“When she (Markovitz) passed away, we wanted to keep it within our family,” Cullen said.

Memorial Day isn't just about barbecues and mattress sales, VFW member Robert Krupey said. The playing of taps, the three-volley salute and other symbolism that accompany the memorial service recall the holiday's true meaning, he said.

“This is a reminder, for everyone who comes out here, that Americans value their freedom, and they value everyone who sacrificed for it,” Krupey said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.