By Brenda Maguire
Exeter American Legion Post 934 held their 30th annual Memorial Day Parade and Service on May 30.
The parade started at Exeter High School and ended at Forest Hills Memorial Park, where the service was held.
“It’s a recognition of our ambulance, police and fire fighters that are serving the community all the time,” said Jesse Ritz, parade coordinator. “It’s also to honor those who have died, not only in military service, but those who have died since service.”
The highlight of this year’s parade was the new addition to the Exeter community, three pieces of steel from the World Trade Center. The pieces were given to the Exeter Township Fire Department and were carried on a truck in the parade
Pam Stauffer, whose son, an EMT, was in the parade, was one of many Mount Penn residents who came out for the parade despite the heat on Memorial Day.
“I think it was good to have it here today. I think it makes it more personal for all of us. [The attacks on 9/11] changed our world, there are just not words for it,” said Stauffer.
“I don’t know the words to describe it,” said Mt. Penn Mayor Joshua Nowotarski. “It’s just amazing that they actually got three pieces of the site and they are going to be a part of local history.”
The Grand Marshal for the parade was James Seidel, who was a music teacher, instrumental director and music department chair in the Exeter Township School District for 37 years before retiring last year.
In addition to local firemen and policemen, participants in the parade included the Hamilton Celtic Pipes and Drums color guard, Exeter and Antietam marching bands, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Exeter baseball and floats sponsored by the Exeter Library, Carol Shoppes Florists and Relay for Life.
Abigail Rowley was the Poppy Princess and the Poppy girls were Madison Roth and Madison Hahn. All are junior members of American Legion Post 934.
Following the parade, an emotional service was held at Forest Hills Memorial Park. Larry Roth was the master of ceremonies for the service.
The keynote speaker was Nowotarski, who spoke about his time volunteering at St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway following the attacks on September 11.
Nowotarski spoke about his love for New York from the first time he visited in high school and how the attacks affected him personally.
“It was a little bitter sweet. I didn’t know if I would make it through [the speech], but I did,” he said.
Following Nowotarski’s speech, the president of the Exeter Key Club, Kristen Strenkoski read “In Flanders Field,” and Exeter high school student Jessica Plue sang, “America the Beautiful.”
Reverend Wendy Orzolek of the Northstar United Methodist Church delivered the benediction. Carol Shoppes Florist provided the Dove of Peace and an M-1 Squad, Jeff Shilling, saluted the dead.
The Hamilton Celtic Pipes and Drums played “Amazing Grace,” in the ceremony and the Exeter Marching Band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Taps.”
“I think it’s really important for us to be here. I can’t imagine having fought in the wars, I just can’t,” said Stauffer. “I can’t imagine what they gave and what they did and what they went through.”
Exeter American Legion Post 934 was formed in 1976 following the Vietnam War. They have held a Memorial Day parade every year since they were formed.