By David Lindenmuth
FRACKVILLE - Hundreds came out to downtown Frackville on Saturday morning for a ceremony honoring local veterans.
The ceremony, dedicating the Frackville Area Hometown Hero banners, featured speeches from local officials, including Magisterial District Judge Christina Hale, Senator David Argall (R-29 - Schuylkill/Berks), Representative Neal Goodman (D-129 - Mahanoy City), and Schuylkill County Commissioners George Halcovage and Gary Hess, as well as patriotic music by the Upper Schuylkill Marching Band.
The event began with the playing of the National Anthem, and a prayer by Father Robert Finlan, Frackville.
180 banners were placed throughout Frackville borough through the Hometown Hero Banner Program, honoring veterans from the Civil War to the Global War on Terror.
The program committee consisted of Paul Martin, President; Ron Liem, Vice President; Walter Hummel, Treasurer; Tim Hale, Secretary; Dan Bennett, Member; John Chuma, Member; Albert Dillman, Member; and Sam Samelko, Member.
"There was a lot of patriotism here in Frackville this morning. Thank you so much." Tim Hale, US Navy Veteran and committee member said during the program. "The committee was formed in November, with a group of veterans from Frackville, to form the Frackville Area Hometown Heroes Program. The mission of the program was to pay tribute to veterans from Frackville and the surrounding areas who served in the armed forces and are continuing to serve... Thank you for your patriotism, thank you for your support, and thank you for supporting Frackville."
"We are here today to honor our heroes. In this case, our hometown heroes from Frackville and the surrounding areas. Today, we remember their achievements, honor their courage and dedication, and say thank you for their sacrifices." Magisterial District Judge Christina Hale said during the program. "Having grown up in Frackville as a child, I heard many stories about relatives and family friends who served in the military in various conflicts. From coal miners who became soldiers in the Civil War, to doughboys crouched in muddy trenches in France to the platoons patrolling the jungle in Vietnam... These servicemen and women came from all walks of life, but shared in serving a cause larger than oneself and shared common Coal Region roots.... Every veteran has a unique story, and these banners tell those stories. These banners will honor veterans and their families through the preservation of their stories. All branches, all periods, living, and deceased. They will educate current and future generations on the experiences of our military veterans, and finally, these banners will inspire us all to do more with the freedom that has been won and is preserved through the great sacrifice of all who have served."
"Frackville is a town that always honors its hometown heroes. This Memorial Day weekend, it has never been more obvious. From one end of town to the other, banners with names and faces of so many of our town's veterans, who served our country in the armed forces in the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries, are proudly displayed." Attorney Michael O'Connor said during the program. "America is free because of the brave. On this Memorial Day weekend, we take the time to honor all those who served our country in the pursuit of freedom."
"I want to congratulate the citizens of Frackville and beyond on such an amazing project." Senator Argall said during the program. "This is a day that you should all be proud of... Hopefully we have learned from the mistreatment of the veterans during Korea and Vietnam, that when they do come home, we say thank you, again, and again, and again, and especially this weekend, we remember those who never had the opportunity to come home. Congratulations Frackville on a job well done."
"Here in Schuylkill County, we are proud that we have many memorials throughout the county, recognizing veterans from all different wars, every one of them is cherished by our veterans, every one is hallowed ground, but I have to admit that I find this type of remembrance extremely special." Representative Neal Goodman said during the program. "These really are quite unique. You see the photo of the veteran, you see when they served, what branch of service that they served in, you also see the family members that remembered them, and it's a mix of emotions. It's both happy and sad. Happy because we remember how young they were, when you see their photos, and remember that the average age of a combat veteran is between the age of 19 and 21. We send our best and our brightest, but we also send our youngest... But the happy emotion is, I think it allows everyone in the community to walk the streets and see how their neighbors, and how their family members served so honorably in their country... Unlike many places, the number of veterans in Schuylkill County per capita is the largest in the commonwealth, and I think people forget that. We have a lot to be proud of."
"The great thing about, when you look at Frackville, it's a melting pot. You had the Polish, you had the Lithuanians, you had the Germans, you had the Irish. You had all different faiths. But yet, what are we? We're one nation." Commissioner Halcovage said during the program. "This is a patriotic area... One of the things, it may be a banner, but, to me, it's something that's very living, and I think that we take that forward, because every one of these banners tells a story."
"As you enter the borough, you see these fine banners that are here to remember, and to remember and honor those who served." Commissioner Hess said during the program. "Sometimes we forget about the freedom and democracy that we share here in America, we forget that we can walk our streets freely, say anything we want, think what we want, and dream wherever we can go. That's what America is about, and the reason for that is these folks that served and put the uniform on, to do that and to have that, that we can cherish that each day... As you see, the little bit of rain coming down, I look at this as it's a tribute from heaven, a sprinkle down thanking everyone that served in the service. Again, Frackville, you have done great. It's a very proud and bright community, thank you for what you've done. Thank you for the committee for putting this together, and thank you for the citizens, because this is what pulls communities together, and as all the communities pull together, we can continue and have a great county. Again, Frackville, thank you very much, we're very proud of you."
The program concluded with a prayer by Father Finlan, a 21 Gun Salute by the Frackville American Legion, and the playing of Taps.
List of Veterans Honored with Banners