CLARKS SUMMIT — Members of the Abington Memorial VFW Post 7069 seize any opportunity to salute veterans and remember fallen soldiers.
The organization not only sponsors Clarks Summit’s annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony, but also holds services at four local cemeteries — Abington Hills Cemetery, South Abington Memorial, Clarks Green Cemetery, and Hickory Grove Cemetery — prior to the event, held Monday, May 30.
The VFW Post, along with many other civic organizations, marched in the annual parade, including two local fire companies — Clarks Summit Volunteer Fire Co. and Dalton Fire Co. — whose members greeted parade-goers in their fire engines.
Students from St. Gregory’s Early Childhood Center in Clarks Green showed their American spirit by wearing American flag apparel and holding American flags during the march, led by kindergarten teacher Chris Arcangelo.
“It’s our 20th year marching,” she said. “During Veterans Day, we visit the Marines Museum (Northeast Detachment Marine Corps and League Museum) in Scranton.”
Boy Scouts from Troop 160 of Clarks Summit and Troop 251 of Clarks Green have been marching together since the parade’s beginning.
“I’m glad that the VFW, the community, and the civic organizations have continued to get together and have the parade to honor the memory of our fallen veterans,” said Boy Scout Ethan Cannella.
Alex Blakiewicz of Troop 160 lowered the American flag outside the Abington Community Library to honor the Memorial Day tradition of keeping the flag at half mast before noon.
“I’m grateful to honor the veterans by lowering the flag,” he said. “Boy Scouts is awesome. We get to do fun activities. We were just in Valley Forge last week and toured old historical homes.”
Alex’s father Scott Blakiewicz, who was also in the parade, is an adult member of Troop 160.
“We’re looking forward to summer camp in July,” he said. “In camp, they (Boy Scouts) get to earn merit badges and hang out with friends.”
Members of Summit Baptist Bible Church also marched in the parade. Pastor Don Roe, lead pastor of the church, greeted the parade-goers on his motorcycle.
“It seemed like the perfect day for the community to come together and remember the sacrifices that the men and women who served our country made” he said.
World War II veterans Gene Gallagher of Clarks Summit, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps for two and a half years, and William Speare of Glenburn, a retired lieutenant colonel, who served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 28 years, enjoyed watching the parade on the sidewalk of Grove Street. Speare used to march in the parade with the VFW members.
“Memorial Day has expanded to a day of remembrance, where people don’t just remember deceased veterans but deceased loved ones,” he said.
After passing through Grove Street and South State Street, the parade ended at the Abington Memorial Post 7069, where there was a ceremony outside the building.
Community members and organizations, such as Clarks Summit Borough officials and staff at The Pines at Clarks Summit Senior Living, donated wreaths to be placed near the flagpole.
The Abington Heights Marching Band performed patriotic melodies including “American Scenes” and “Salute to America’s Finest,” a medley of all armed forces songs, both in the parade and during the ceremony. The band, which also donated a wreath, has been a feature of the Memorial Day event for 50 years.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for the students to perform in front of their community members and express the gratitude for the local veterans,” said Eric Boylan, Abington Heights band director. “They (students) enjoy the local hometown parade.”
For the ceremony, Don Jones, commander of Post 7069, and Nick Shyshuk, surgeon of Post 7069, performed the tradition of the folding of the flag. They said they learned this task by watching YouTube videos.
“This is our first time doing this besides when we practiced,” said Jones.
Steuart Bailey, commander of Post 7069, announced the meaning of each fold as Jones and Shyshuk folded it 12 times.
Also during the ceremony, Michael McLane, quarter master/adjutant, read the names of the members of Post 7069 who died since last year’s Memorial Day. This year, he read 22 names.
“The active duty servicemen are the ones who should get the accolades, not once or twice a year, but every day,” he said. “Especially the men and women serving our country today.”