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thedrifter
08-23-09, 08:54 AM
08/23/2009
Event honors POWs, MIAs
BY PATTY YAUGER , Herald-Standard

CONNELLSVILLE TWP. - The flame of a single white candle flickered as veterans, soldiers, officials and others gathered Saturday to remember those who served their country in time of war, but have yet to return home, along with the soldiers, sailors and Marines who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The candle, along with a lone red rose, a plate, a salted lemon and an inverted glass were among the symbols placed on a small table by members of the American Legion Riders and Rolling Thunder during the "Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony" in honor of the 88,000 U.S. servicemen from all wars that have yet to return home to their loved ones.

"The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and their loved ones who keep the faith, awaiting answers," said Jim Smith, American Legion Post 301 vice-president and service officer. "We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures there are others who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, depravation and imprisonment."

Keynote speaker for the POW/MIA event held at the Connellsville Township National Guard Readiness Center, 2nd Lt. Joshua A. Shallenberger, said that those that have risen to the call of duty understand the meaning of patriotism and character.

"Patriotism is defined as a love and support for one's country," he said to those in the audience that had served in the military. "To you, it is not just hanging a flag in your yard or on your car.
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"To you it isn't practiced one day a year on the Fourth of July; you did something that most today find difficult to understand. You put the needs of others before your own and we owe you a debt of gratitude."

A decorated Iraqi War veteran, Shallenberger joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard prior to his 2003 graduation from Connellsville Area Senior High School. He recently received a degree in athletic training from California University of Pennsylvania and will attend King's College in Wilkes-Barre in the fall to pursue a master's degree in physician assistant studies while serving as a medical operations officer with the Guard's Scranton-based HHC/1st/109th unit.

Members of the Armed Forces, said Shallenberger, share a common bond.

"You believe in something greater than yourselves," he said. "It is this belief that causes very different men from very different backgrounds to stand beside one another and fight.

"They fight to preserve our freedoms; they take the field to protect the lives of the brother to their left and right; they do not ask for thanks, sympathy or understanding.

"They simply find satisfaction in their individual purpose and contribution to this nation's goals. This is patriotism."

The risk of dying or being captured by the enemy while wearing the military uniform, said Shallenberger, is one that has existed over the course of history and the nation should take time to remember those that have stood ready to defend freedom and democracy.

"Today, we call to mind these soldiers; remembering that their sacrifices were not made in vain, but to accomplish a mission so that we could remain protected and safe," Shallenberger said.

In addition to the Pennsylvania soldiers yet unaccounted for, the Connellsville Veterans Commission also recognized the Fayette County soldiers killed while serving in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Also taking part in the ceremony were Vietnam veteran Gerald Browell, who served as master of ceremonies, the American Legion Honor Guard, the Connellsville Police Auxiliary, the Rev. Randy Costolo, pastor of the Greenwood, East Connellsville and Bridgeport United Methodist churches, and the Molinaro Band under the direction of Henry Molinaro.

Also, Connellsville Veterans Commission President Donald G. Siple, American Legion Post 301 Secretary Thomas W. McFadden, American Legion Post 62, Connellsville AMVETS 111, state Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland and POW John "Wally" Schroyer and Ben Lincoln.

Ellie