By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - Borough residents came out early Monday morning for the annual Memorial Day parade and service, organized by the combined veterans of Shenandoah.
The parade began at 9:00am at Jardin and Centre, traveling south on Jardin to Oak, from there to Main, and through the heart of downtown to borough hall.
The parade was led by the Shenandoah Police, followed by an honor guard from the Shenandoah American Legion. Also participating was the Shenandoah Valley Marching Band, Shenandoah Little League, Shenandoah Fire Department and Ambulance, and Cub Scout Pack 711 of Shenandoah.
The parade concluded at the veterans memorial next to borough hall, as borough and township police closed off West Washington for the ceremony which began immediately after the parade.
This year's speakers included Mayor Andrew Szczyglak, and Albert Bindie, who served as a special information officer for the Central Intelligence Agency for 27 years.
"For the last couple weeks, I'm sure everyone has noticed through town, the beautiful display of our fallen soldiers with the hometown hero banners," said Szczyglak. "It was through the efforts of our American Legion, Mr. Gordon Slater and his committee, who did such a fine job in putting these banners together to remind us of how many fallen soldiers came from the borough of Shenandoah."
"There are a lot that were killed in battle, there are a lot who did come home but are no longer with us, and today is the day for us to remember them," Szczyglak continued.
Szczyglak spoke of stories from his family, of lost relatives in World War I.
"I had an uncle who was killed in World War I. At the very early age of 21 years old, he left his family in Shenandoah, and joined the army, and he was doing his duty for his country," said Szczyglak. "He gave his life. He never returned. I heard stories from my family how my great grandmother would sit on the front porch of her home, waiting for the mail to come, hoping that there might have been a letter or some sort of correspondence from her boy."
"The stories they told me of the day that she got the letter that he was killed in action, her attitude and the look on her face and the scream that she let out was something that people said they remembered for years to come, "Szczyglak added. "The impact that these soldiers that passed away took on our families was just unbearable, but they did it because they were proud of this country and they wanted to serve this country."
"We're here to remember all these gentlemen and women whose pictures are on these banners throughout the town," Szczyglak concluded.
Bindie also spoke about the impact the losses had on local families, and what could be done moving forward, while outlining the history of the holiday, noting its growth from celebrations of the end of the Civil War.
"It is a special day, because it causes everyone to remember those who paid the ultimate price in military service to this nation. This solemn day helps us understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by them and their families," Bindie said. "They were the brothers, sisters, friends, relatives, and neighbors who fought for our country. They've left unfillable holes in families and communities in this country."
Bindie noted that, as a neighbor to the Damato family, he was able to see first hand the devastating effect the loss of Neil and Anthony Damato in World War II had on that family,
"In fact, over 100 Shenandoah families lost loved ones in World War II," said Bindie. "For a small coal region town, it was a huge sacrifice."
Bindie noted how fallen service members had been recognized either by posthumous medals or the naming of posts in their honor, including the Damato Post and the Walter Wardigo Amvets post.
"Please remember, no honors, nor words of condolence can ever begin to adequately console a survivors grief. It never leaves," said Bindie. "However, by honoring those killed in action, by naming organizations, monuments, and streets, it's a way of having the new generation learn of the actions and sacrifices of these great Americans."
"I think we should all take a moment to think about how it would feel to learn that a son or daughter was killed in action," added Bindie.
Bindie concluded his portion by quoting author and veteran Charles Province.
"It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves the flag, beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, and who allows protesters to burn the flag," Bindie read.
The service concluded with American Legion members laying a wreath on the memorial, followed by a 21-gun salute, a moment of silence, and a closing prayer.