Lower Burrell celebrates its veterans
As a line of motorcycles wound its way down Wildlife Lodge Road in Lower Burrell on Memorial Day, George Bagaley sat on a friend's front porch and thought of his dad.
Driven by the members of the American Legion Post 868 Riders, their bikes bedecked with flags and symbols of their individual service branches, the riders reminded Bagaley of his father's belief in remembering those who fought, and died, for American freedom.
“He would have been here today. He wouldn't have missed this,” Bagaley said in between bursts of engine noise as the bikes turned into the American Legion post at the end of the city's Memorial Day parade.
As the Burrell High School Marching band rounded the corner, adding its music to the noise from the motorcycles, Bagaley explained that his father was a proud veteran, at one point stationed in what was then called Burma, and that he always remembered those veterans who gave everything to their country.
Bagaley said that his father impressed upon him the importance of remembering, and that he in turn carries his father's beliefs and honors them by celebrating on days like Memorial Day.
Lower Burrell has a long history of celebrating the national holiday with a parade and memorial ceremony sponsored by and ending at the American Legion Post 868, auxiliary Chaplain Mary Jane Zdila said.
The Legion and Lower Burrell Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 92 switch off parade duties every year, Zdila said. The VFW sees to every Veterans Day, and the Legion covers Memorial Day.
“It's been going on for decades. Each post does their part to honor our veterans. But, of course, Memorial Day is all about those who died,” she said.
Zdila said it's important for younger generations to see what was sacrificed for their liberty and freedom.
“Because if you don't know, history will repeat itself,” she said.
District VFW Commander Bob Body stressed that Memorial Day was a lesson for society as a whole about the importance of putting some ideals high enough to die for.
“Today is about celebrating those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we could enjoy our freedom,” he said. “It's about all veterans, but it's especially about remembering those who died, and it's important to look back on where we came from to see how far we have gotten.”
Mayor Richard Callender closed the parade ceremony with a speech that included a list of the dead from all of the various conflicts the United States has participated in, using the figures as a reminder of what he called the price of freedom.
“What is the price of freedom? Freedom isn't free,” he said.
Callender noted the hundreds of thousands who died in the American Civil War, saying that “we were fighting against ourselves.” He went on to link that conflict to the current state of national affairs.
“We need to set aside our differences and work together. We need to understand that we have problems in this country, there have been differences and conflicts lately — blacks against whites; Democrats against Republicans; descendants of immigrants against refugees of war,” he said. “We need to wake up because the only way the United States can be defeated is by ourselves. We need to work together.”