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Thirty World War II veterans take part in Memorial Day parade in Wyomissing

Ben Berry remembers Memorial Days from many years ago, when as a boy the holiday meant a day off from school, playing his saxophone in his hometown parade and the chance to meet girls.

But on Saturday, the 100-year-old Army veteran of World War II had a much bigger role in the Memorial Day parade in Wyomissing.

Berry, of Philadelphia, was one of 30 World War II veterans who rode on vintage Army Jeeps and other military vehicles along the parade route to the cheers and thank-yous of those who lined the streets.

He said seeing so many from the community showing their appreciation to the veterans was a true honor.

“Today turned out to be wonderful,” he said.

Ben Berry, 100, of Philadelphia, a corporal in the quartermaster corps during World War II, listens to the speakers during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday in the Wyomissing Hills Memorial Park. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Ben Berry, 100, of Philadelphia, a corporal in the quartermaster corps during World War II, listens to the speakers during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday in the Wyomissing Hills Memorial Park. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

 

Berry and the other World War II veterans, who ranged in age from 96 to 103, were invited by Tyler Boland of Sinking Spring, an Albright College student whose Keeping History Alive project collects histories from veterans and raises awareness of their stories.

Boland never met his great-grandfathers, but both were World War II veterans and the project is a way to pay tribute to them and all of those who served in the military, he said.

“It’s important that while our World War II veterans are still around that we remember what they did so long ago,” he said.

World War II veterans ride in a jeep during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
World War II veterans ride in a Jeep during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

The Memorial Day parade in Wyomissing is a longtime community tradition and is staged by the borough. It was followed by a remembrance ceremony at Wyomissing Hills Memorial Park that included the playing of Taps, a 21-gun salute and ceremonial flag folding.

Memorial Day weekend is a great time to kick off summer, and family picnics should be part of it, said borough recreation director Randy McKinley, but he urged everyone to first remember  those who served in the country’s military, particularly those who sacrificed their lives while doing so.

Tyler Boland, right, helps World War II Navy veteran Mathias Gutman place a wreath during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday in the Wyomissing Hills Memorial Park. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Tyler Boland, right, helps World War II Navy veteran Mathias Gutman place a wreath during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday in the Wyomissing Hills Memorial Park. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

The parade grand marshal was World War II Navy veteran Mathias Gutman, 99, of Allentown. Since Gutman’s eyesight is fading, he had Boland stand beside him to read his speech to a crowd gathered at the park.

Gutman served in the Pacific during the war helping to transport Marines and supplies to Japanese-held islands, and after the war helped to clear underwater mines from Japanese harbors to ensure safe passage for U.S. occupation forces.

Looking back on his time in the Navy reminded him of the bravery, camaraderie, and sacrifice of his fellow service members, he said.

“We were young then, some of us just teenagers, called upon to defend our country in a time of great need. We sailed across treacherous seas, faced relentless enemies, and witnessed events that changed the course of history.

“The war was a time of immense challenge, but it was also a time that brought out the best of us. We learned the true meaning of brotherhood, loyalty and resilience.

“Those of us who made it back home carried with us not just memories of the battles we fought, but also a profound appreciation for the freedoms we defended.”

Berry also remembered his service during World War II proudly.

The Axis powers were confident that they could defeat the U.S. and its allies, Berry said, but America’s toughness and determination carried it to victory, he said.

“We proved them wrong,” he said.

Hannah Schell, 3, waves the flag with her mom, Shelby Hague of Wernersville, during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Hannah Schell, 3, waves the flag with her mom, Shelby Hague of Wernersville, during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Berks County Veterans Director Jay Ostrich said the parades and ceremonies held throughout the county this weekend are something the veterans earned.

“We have a sacred duty to honor the more than 1.1 million fellow Americans who have bravely made the ultimate sacrifice so others may live, liberty may grow, and future generations may sleep and prosper under the blanket of freedom.

“Our great communities coming together to remember that selfless sacrifice is a direct answer to President Lincoln’s charge to Americans in his Gettysburg Address that it is, ‘for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.’ This is part of that work.”

Among the Wyomissing parade spectators was Earl Noll of Wernersville, an Army veteran who served as a drill instructor during the Vietnam War.

He praised parade organizers for putting together an important event.

“It reminds everyone of who did their part to keep our country free,” he said. “It’s a time to honor them and to be thankful for what we have in America.”

Also attending were Casey and Lauren Pierson of Wyomissing and their sons Jalen, 3, and Lucas, 1.

Lauren Pierson with her children Jalen,3, and Lucas, I, during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Lauren Pierson with her children Jalen,3, and Lucas, I, during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Lauren grew up and attending and marching in the community’s parades and likes to keep that tradition alive for her boys, she said.

Casey came to Wyomissing from the western U.S., and said Memorial Day was not paid the same attention there as it is in Berks.

“It’s great to have a community that comes together like this to show their appreciation for those who fought in our wars,” he said. “This is really nice. This place is special.”

Wearing patriotic attire, Jason Richards of Shillington watches the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Wearing patriotic attire, Jason Richards of Shillington watches the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
World War II veterans during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
World War II veterans during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
A. J. Mellon, 8, of Richland, Lebanon County, leads a group of veterans during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
A. J. Mellon, 8, of Richland, Lebanon County, leads a group of veterans during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
Youngsters wave flags during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Youngsters wave flags during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
Troop and Cub Pack 413 of Bausman United Church of Christ carries the flag during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Troop and Cub Pack 413 of Bausman United Church of Christ carries the flag during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
World War II veterans Levi Wegman of Oley and Rubino Degenhart of Douglassville ride in a jeep during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
World War II veterans Levi Wegman of Oley and Rubino Degenhart of Douglassville ride in a jeep during the Wyomissing Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

 


Source: Berkshire mont

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