As other families picnicked and visited, thousands of veterans, families with children of all ages, and other patriots lined Baltimore Avenue in Gettysburg on a sunny Memorial Day afternoon to watch an enthusiastic parade. A smaller crowd stayed on to hear presentations at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
The parade included representatives of the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg including Commanding Officer Megan Thomas, as well as Gettysburg Mayor Ted Streeter, State Representative Dan Moul, State Senator Doug Mastriano, and Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Steven Sims.
Also in the lineup were representatives of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the PA National Guard, the Gettysburg Army Jr. ROTC, and the Young Marines. The parade was complemented by a Vietnam-era helicopter, a Lincoln impersonator, two Rosie the Riveters, and dozens of restored military vehicles.
But there was no music – the normally-present high school bands did not appear this year.
At the Rostrum in the cemetery a somber and emotional gathering attended the presentation moderated by Moul.
In their addresses, Sims thanked the workers at the Park Service and Mastriano enumerated the sacrifices made by many U.S. Military veterans. Saying he was there as a retired Army Colonel, Mastriano said “this last year reminded us how fragile our freedoms are.”
In her address Thomas noted how the shield of the USS Gettysburg depicted many aspects of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Thomas said she and the members of her crew that were with her “continue to be overwhelmed by this community’s generosity and hospitality.”
Thomas noted the sacrifices of the many who had “lost in their moment but not in their purpose. We owe them a debt we can never repay.” Quoting President Ronald Reagan, she said “ All we can do is remember them and why they had to be brave for us.”
Thomas said it took her many years to fully understand the importance of Memorial Day.
Cindy Tatum, 2020-21 National President of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. spoke of the loss of her veteran son who died in 2007 and made a moving tribute to all veterans before receiving a thank-you award from the parade organizers.
Gettysburg Resident Wayne Hill sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “O God our Help in Ages Past.” The New Oxford Chamber Brass Ensemble played several pieces.
The ceremony concluded with the of laying wreaths, a 21-gun salute, and a rendition of Taps.