Sharpsburg's Memorial Day commemoration has been tradition for 144 years
Philip Stotelmyer of the Marine Corps League of Hagerstown-Bulldog Detachment salutes after placing one of many wreaths during a wreath-laying ceremony Saturday in Sharpsburg as part of the Memorial Day commemoration festivities in the town square. (By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer)
Sharpsburg's Memorial Day commemoration, which was held Saturday, has been a town custom for 144 years. The community marked the holiday with a parade, wreath-laying ceremony and service at Antietam National Cemetery.
Sharpsburg Mayor Hal Spielman said the events are important traditions for Sharpsburg, although attendance has been waning.
"We'd have a lot more people here when I was a kid," Spielman said after dignitaries and veterans' organizations placed 32 wreaths on town square.
Lloyd "Pete" Waters of Antietam Furnace said Sharpsburg's commemoration is a can't-miss for his family.
"It's a memorial for our veterans, especially for those veterans that are lost," Waters said. "We get awfully busy in this world, but we shouldn't get too busy and forget our veterans."
Waters' daughter, Amy Waters, pointed to a picture of her father in his Vietnam War uniform. The framed picture is hanging in the front of Nutter's Ice Cream with ones of other veterans.
"It's small-town USA at its best," Amy Waters said of Sharpsburg.
Jim Moseley of Frederick, Md., said he and fellow Corvette owners have been visiting Sharpsburg for its Memorial Day commemoration for a few years.
"Everybody knows everybody," Moseley said, saying Sharpsburg is what he calls a "back-then town."
Moseley said the wreath-laying ceremony moved him.
"I got emotional, which is unusual for me," he said.
Fred L. Shinbur, who was named Maryland's Veteran of the Year served as the wreath-laying ceremony's keynote speaker. Shinbur, of Hagerstown, retired from the U.S. Army as a chief warrant officer 5 and served in the Vietnam War.
"Thankfully, there are areas outside Arlington (National Cemetery) where Memorial Day is a day to honor America's war dead," Shinbur said. "Sharpsburg does it right."
Shinbur talked about the Seal Team 10 mission in 2005 in which service members were killed and a helicopter crashed. He also mentioned Army Sgt. 1st Class Lance H. Vogeler, a Frederick soldier killed last October in Afghanistan.
"He was in his eighth tour in Afghanistan after serving four tours in Iraq. ... This husband and father gave to his country until he simply had nothing else to give," Shinbur said.
To ensure the spirit of Memorial Day extends beyond one day of gratitude and honor, Shinbur recommended taking care of veterans at your dinner table, job and church.
"We must recognize, too, not all fatal wounds are visible," Shinbur said, mentioning the effects of Agent Orange and the rates of suicide among service members.
Shinbur presented Spielman with a Memorial Day proclamation from Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.