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Memorial Day parade honors area veterans

| Saturday, May 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Flags fly high for Memorial Day at the Armstrong County 'Memorial Wall' at the courthouse on Market Street in Kittanning. JAN PAKLER | FOR THE LEADER TIMES

KITTANNING – Planners for the town's Memorial Day parade and ceremony hope the day's events serve to remind folks that Monday is a whole lot more than an extension of a holiday weekend.

“It's important to remember those who sacrificed their lives for us so this nation remains united and free,” said Richard Essenwein, Pennsylvania Department Commander of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Essenwein said he thinks some of the focus and purpose of Memorial Day has been lost since 1971 when the Uniform Holiday Bill went into affect shifting Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, thereby creating an extended holiday weekend.

Victor Stivason, 60, is the Commander of AMVETS Post 13 in Kittanning, and recalled the town's Memorial Day parades when he was a kid.

But, he said, about 40 years ago the parades stopped.

Stivason, who is a retired Army veteran, said Post 13 was formed in 2006 by motorcycle riders like him who wanted to resurrect the town's Memorial Day parade.

Since then, he said, many people have stepped up and donated a lot of time and energy to help make the parade possible.

“This is crucial,” said Stivason, “because if people do not get behind it, it will die like it did before. As a veteran, I owe as much to other veterans as anyone else does.”

Stivason said it is still uncertain how many veterans will walk in the parade on Monday.

“Many of our veterans are disabled and can't walk that far,” he said, adding that veterans needing assistance can ride in the parade vehicles.

“We encourage all veterans to participate (in the day's events),” said planning committee member, Earl “Buzz” Kline, a Vietnam Army veteran who had been stationed at Cam Ranh Bay during the war.

Kline, who is also the borough fire marshal, said AMVETS Post 13 and the SUVCW, John T. Crawford Camp 43, are the main organizers of the parade and ceremony.

Members of the SUVCW will lead the parade — beginning at 10 a.m. at the corner of Vine and North McKean streets — with a horse-drawn caisson in honor of fallen Union soldiers.

Parade participants will include members of the Kittanning High School and Armstrong County Firemen's Band, the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center, Post 13 motorcycle riders, members of the Armstrong County Horseman's Association, church groups and at least nine area volunteer fire departments, said Kline.

A ceremony is expected to begin after the parade at 11 a.m. at the John P. Murtha Amphitheater in the Riverfront Park.

The keynote speaker will be Grace Charney, a retired Air force lieutenant colonel and intelligence officer, said Kline.

Bonnie Waltenbaugh of Ford City, whose son died in service, will place a flower wreath at the podium in honor of servicemen and women who lost their lives by land and in the air. A second wreath will be placed in the river for those who died in uniform at sea.

Essenwein stressed the importance of spending at least one hour of one day out of the year to attend a ceremony, parade or memorial service to honor those in the military who died in service of their country.

“Find the time to pause and remember why you're there,” he said.

A memorial service will be held by members of Camp 43 and the Sarah A. Crawford Auxiliary at the Kittanning Cemetery prior to the parade at 9 a.m.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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