“I lost a couple fellas I knew,” Bowman said. “ I learned one thing in the Army real fast — you don’t make friends.”
Despite his convictions, Bowman still turned out Wednesday morning for the Washington County Joint Veterans Council Memorial Day ceremony at Martin L. “Marty” Snook Memorial Park in Halfway.
He remembered the nation’s war dead with about 50 other people, many of them gray-haired veterans who, hindered by age, struggled to stand.
Although he acknowledged that some younger people were probably at work, Bowman said he was disappointed that more didn’t attend the event.
“Most of them don’t have the foggiest idea of what’s going on,” he said. “We’ve had too damn good of a life in this country, and we’ve forgotten what can happen to us .... I think we’ve become a nation of ‘I don’t give a damn’ from the Congress on down.”
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Stewart M. Hickey echoed Bowman’s remarks in his keynote address.
“I think about everybody here is a veteran, so we know what this day is,” Hickey said. “But what we want these ceremonies to do is to get it to the people who don’t know what it’s about. These are the ones who should be here.”
Hickey, who wore his Marine Corps dress blue uniform, mentioned the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and the more than 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and sailors who died during the American Civil War.
“Memorial Day is about the people who are on the other side of this grass — not us who are up here above it,” he said. “It’s about the ones who gave the last full measure of their lives in service to their country. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”
Ernest Brant, 82, of Williamsport said he served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, fixing holes in B-29s that were caused by flak.
“I spent 17 months over there,” he said. “I fixed engines. I loaded bombs.”
He said he celebrates Memorial Day to remember those who died and served in the military, including three of his uncles who fought in World War II.
“When I was a kid, it was called Decoration Day,” Brant said. “It’s for the memory of the people who served and passed on.”