There were many audible tributes to the fallen at the annual 28th Infantry Division memorial service at the Pennsylvania Military Museum on Sunday.
A military band played as soldiers placed memorial wreaths, followed by taps. A 21-gun salute rang out in the warm May air and generals made remarks to hundreds of servicemen and women and members of the public in attendance.
Maj. Gen. James Joseph, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard, opened by pointing to the history of the unit — established in 1879 — the longest continuously serving division in the Army. It has seen action in Europe during both world wars. More recently, members of the 28th have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kuwait. In addition, the citizen soldiers who make up the division have also served domestically in response to natural disasters and labor disputes over the years, he said.
“This is to be expected when your motto is ‘Always ready, always there,’ ” Joseph said.
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While the service Sunday was to honor the division’s fallen, division commander Maj. Gen. John Gronski said it was also a time to reflect on all past and present American servicemembers across all branches. He asked those in attendance to keep those serving in their thoughts and prayers.
“As we gather here today in this peaceful setting, we still have thousands of military personnel serving in harm’s way in southwest Asia and other dark places that are not so peaceful as this,” Gronski said.
There was another reminder of sacrifice and service, more subtle and silent, after the roar of the guns and the music stopped.
An obelisk memorializing members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, killed in Iraq stands on the museum grounds. Their names are etched on the granite base. Linked together inside the obelisk are sets of dog tags, representative of the soldiers, Marines and a Navy corpsman who lost their lives about 10 years ago.
Immediately after the service, as a light wind blew and a soft rain fell, the tags could briefly be heard gently tinkling together.