With a background in news for more than 40 years, it was always a given that I would be a registered Independent voter. When broadcast news was news and not primarily opinion and speculation, journalists kept their politics to themselves and maintained their unbiased images. Having voted for 11 presidents and dozens of local and state elections in between, today marks the first day I have ever voted in a Primary Election as an Independent. Not because I wouldn’t have liked to, but because I wasn’t allowed. Of course, I’ll have only one selection today on a special ballot to replace 33rd District Senator Richard Alloway who quit in February. Today’s winner will serve out the remainder of Alloway’s term. Polls on this Primary Election Day will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Today is a Municipal Election and turnout is traditionally poor, 20 to 30 percent. I’ll lean closer to the 20 figure. This surprises me since those on the ballot will end up making decisions that will affect our lives down the road. Take a few minutes today and exercise your fundamental right and know that your one vote can make a difference. Remember, if you don’t vote, don’t whine about who gets elected.
This coming weekend we observe the Memorial Day holiday. Put aside the car and furniture sales, the lines of cars headed to the Eastern Shore of Maryland for the official beginning of summer, the picnics, and hot dogs on the grill. This weekend we need to join with other Americans to recognize and honor our nation’s war dead from all conflicts. Memorial Day or Decoration Day as it was originally known had its roots with the Civil War. In the late 1860s, Americans began the tradition of decorating graves of the Civil War fallen in cities and towns across the country. The name was officially changed to Memorial Day in 1882. The day was moved to the last Monday in May in 1968, and officially declared a national holiday in 1971. I spoke with two veterans of the Vietnam conflict last week, and asked for their reflections on what Memorial Day meant to them.
Gettysburg Mayor Ted Streeter was an Army intelligence officer during the Vietnam conflict. He told me “I’ve heard it said, and I believe, there’s no greater group of pacifists in the world than the U.S. military. Whether it be the muskets, grape shot, and cannon of the Gettysburg Battlefield, or Arc Lights, Agent Orange, or land mines of Vietnam, the destruction and horror witnessed by and inflicted on both soldiers and non-combatants is something no human should see, let alone endure. And so often it is for naught. I was a lucky one. Despite what I saw, and sometimes did, I did not bring the war home with me. I came home with no physical or emotional damage. I lost three friends in Vietnam but harbor no bitterness toward the Vietnamese. My regrets are two: the absolute and lasting destruction brought upon the people, villages, and countryside of Vietnam; and, the fact that our political leaders sacrificed the lives of more than 58,000 American lives in pursuit of a goal they knew they could never achieve. We should have learned valuable lessons from that conflict, but as recent history shows, we have not.”
Meanwhile, Adams County native Michael Redding enlisted in the US Army at the age of 18. Motivated by the fact Green Berets spoke numerous languages, Mike, with a background in multiple languages in high school, soon found himself spending 47 weeks learning Vietnamese, and then on to more training in highly secret army intelligence. Following training, he was sent to Vietnam where he spent 10 months shared between a northern outpost known as Phu Bai, and then on to Da Nang. He quickly learned upon arriving at Phu Bai his dual purpose while there, intelligence gathering and survival. He told me every third night he would man a mortar station to help ensure the safety of the camp. Mike laughed when he told me he was a combat veteran, yet couldn’t come home and have a beer because he wasn’t 21. He also came home questioning some strategies employed during wartime, and like Streeter was not physically injured during the fighting. Some memories still haunt him and says he visits the Vietnam Memorial (The Wall) for both therapy and remembrance. He became momentarily emotional when saying he doesn’t know of any Vietnam combat veteran who can go to the memorial without becoming swept by emotion.
I thank both Ted and Mike for their service and sharing some of their thoughts about their experiences. There are a million more veterans’ stories across the country as we pause for a moment of silence next Monday at 3 p.m. to remember those who gave all to insure our American freedom.
Let’s head Around Town:
The Gettysburg Memorial Day Ceremonies begin at 2 p.m. Monday with the annual parade stepping off from Lefever Street and proceeding up Baltimore Street to the Soldier’s National Cemetery where a ceremony will be held beginning at 3 p.m. The ceremonies in Gettysburg are among the oldest in the country.
The York Springs Lions Club will be sponsoring a Memorial Day Service at Sunnyside Cemetery in York Springs next Monday beginning at 10 a.m. The theme this year will be our country’s symbols: The National Anthem, American Flag, Pledge of Allegiance and Flyovers. There will be a flyover at the beginning of the service, and the Bermudian Springs Singers, Adams County Allied Veterans Council, Marine Color Guard and numerous re-enactors will participate. Come early and enjoy music, free refreshments, war displays and speak with re-enactors. A shuttle will be provided to the service location. As in past years, a chicken barbecue will be held by the Lutheran Church at Grist Park following the service. For more information call 717-528-4381.
Healthy Adams County presents the Memorial Day 5K Run and Walk at the Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg on Monday, May 27 beginning at 8 a.m. For more information, call 717-337-4137.
The Adams County Office of Aging and the PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources will hold their Spring Fling, an informational event for adults, caregivers, and people with disabilities on Wednesday, May 29 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Hauser Field House on the campus of Gettysburg College. There will be exhibitors, health screenings, live music, and door prizes. Refreshments will be available and bingo from 1 until 2 p.m. For additional information, call 717-334-9296 or 1-800-548-3240. Transportation and shuttle service is available.
The Adams County Literacy Council will be holding a Yard Sale on Thursday and Friday May 30 and May 31 from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., and Saturday, June 1 from 7 a.m. until noon at their headquarters located at 1685 Baltimore Pike. Donations for the sale will be accepted the Monday through Thursday before the sale at the literacy headquarters. For more information, call 717-479-7033.
If your nonprofit club, group, or organization has an upcoming event, let me know about it. My contact information can be found at the end of the column. Please keep your announcement to no more than a paragraph, and allow at least two weeks prior notice of the event.
It is a moving 24 notes inspired by a Union General to honor his fallen men who had died on Civil War battlefields. Memorial Day marks the beginning of “100 nights of Taps.” The event is held annually from Memorial Day through Labor Day at the Soldiers Memorial in the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Every evening at 7 p.m. a guest bugler will play “Taps.” For more information, call 717-338-1243.
That does it for this week, remember to vote today, be safe if you are traveling for Memorial Day, and I’ll be back next Tuesday.