State College

Boalsburg Memorial Day celebration honors fallen soldiers, veterans

Kit Lang, of Williamsport, fires one of the Boalsburg Battery B cannons to conclude the Memorial Day ceremony in front of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on Monday.
Kit Lang, of Williamsport, fires one of the Boalsburg Battery B cannons to conclude the Memorial Day ceremony in front of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on Monday. nthomas@centredaily.com

There were bagpipes present at the annual walk from the Diamond on Main Street to Boalsburg Cemetery.

They were there the whole time of course, a constant presence humming in the background of a stroll that began with members of the Marine Corps League Color Guard and eventually trailed backward to the men, women and children who had turned out to watch the grand finale to the town’s Memorial Day weekend festivities.

Earlier Monday morning, a large portion of the stretch between St. John’s United Church of Christ had been lined with vendors, driving throngs of people onto Main Street.

Hours later, the crowds and the vendors had dispersed, leaving the parade of veterans and servicemen the sole focus on an otherwise empty street.

Still, the bagpipes hadn’t yet registered.

The ceremony itself was a lot to take in — an occasion for prayer, an observance of the holiday, a tribute to all who have served and a few in particular.

Also, there was cannon fire.

It’s easier and perhaps more appropriate to let the people who were there speak for themselves — starting with Ashlyn Arnold.

Ashlyn is a fourth-grader at Mount Nittany Elementary school and the winner of the 2016 Memorial Day Essay Contest.

Her essay, which she read aloud to the crowd in Boalsburg Cemetery, quoted from the nearby “The Birthplace of Memorial Day” sculpture by Lorann Jacobs.

“They have fought the good fight, they have kept the faith and therefore they shall wear a crown of righteousness,” Ashlyn said.

After the ceremony concluded, Ashlyn was approached by a few members of the crowd who wanted thank her for the tribute.

“I was really honored to be able to sit up there and share my essay and remind people that we need to remember these men who fought so hard for us,” Ashlyn said.

Toward the end of the ceremony, Carolyn Foust, the group leader of Happy Valley Quilts of Valor, took to the microphone to address local World War II veterans Ray Fortunato, Harry Hassinger and Charles Hess.

Each of the men would receive a quilt as token of gratitude for their service — not as a prudent suggestion for a very warm day in late May.

“We will be awarding three quilts to vets that served years ago but we have not forgotten,” Foust said.

That, in a nutshell, is more or less the mission statement of Quilts of Valor, a national organization that as of June 2015 had awarded upwards of 119,600 quilts to veterans.

Foust and her husband, Stephen, also a veteran, founded the Happy Valley branch last September to show their appreciation toward those who serve.

“I know what it is for them and I know what it is for the family,” Foust said.

People can nominate veterans who they would like to see receive the honor of a quilt, but lately the group has been focusing on the older generation they would like to see be given its fair due.

“We have a lot of quilts to make,” Foust said.

After the presentation, the ceremony gradually began to wind down.

There was a cannon fire, a rendition of “Taps” — and then the bagpipes.

They were impossible to miss this time, the sound of “Amazing Grace” the way that it was meant to be played.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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