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Carnegie Memorial Day parade kept alive

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 9:12 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The Vietnam Veterans Honor Guard marches in Carnegie's Memorial Day Parade Sunday, May 27, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

Carnegie's traditional Memorial Day Parade almost didn't happen this year.

“People who had been running it for years and years grew tired of it,” Carnegie American Legion Commander Don Sortwell said.

Finding volunteers to head the parade committee, which organizes the annual event, was more difficult than anticipated. Sortwell said it has been increasingly difficult to find people who can commit to such a project.

“But the danger that the parade was going to be canceled — we just couldn't allow that,” he said.

The parade has been a Carnegie tradition for more than 100 years. This year's parade begins at 2 p.m. Sunday at the borough building.

A group of residents, including Mayor Jack Kobistek, came together to form the new parade committee, most of them for the first time. That included Sortwell, a 13-year American Legion member working on the parade for the first time this year.

“The good news is that the people who are involved right now — they had a good understanding of how to organize the parade,” Kobistek said. “Without that, we'd have been lost.”

American Legion Women's Auxiliary leader Wendy Jameson is the only returning committee member.

“She's been our connection to the past,” Sortwell said. “It's good to have someone with experience on the committee.”

Jameson said that while she is the only returning volunteer, the process has not been more laborious.

“I thought it would be difficult,” she said. “But they have all been really, really wonderful. They've all stepped up even though this is their first year.”

She said the parade has taken on a special meaning for her, as both her grandfather and father served in the military.

“It's important to keep it going for the veterans,” she said. “It's to show we are behind them – that we support them 100 percent.

“For me, it's just an emotion things that I can do to say thank you for all that you have done.”

The grand marshal for the parade is Howie Lamb, a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Lamb, who served in Vietnam as a Marine, will lead the parade.

“He's very involved,” Jameson said. “He's a wonderful man.”

The parade will include the Carlynton Marching Band; Tri-Rivers Clowns; the Kennywood trolley; Civil War re-enactors; the Syria Shrine Camel Wheels; and local Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and youth-baseball teams.

Sortwell said it is important to keep a tradition such as the parade alive because it gives people a connection to the past.

“People tend to lose track of what Memorial Day is all about,” he said. “Everybody has so much to do, and you forget Memorial Day was actually created to remember those veterans who have fallen in times of war. It's a way to bring people back to that central theme.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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