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Harpers Ferry celebrates Memorial Day with parade

By Staff | Jun 1, 2018

Toni Milbourne/Chronicle World War II Veteran Agatha “Pete” Murphy salutes during the playing of “Taps” at Monday’s Memorial Day celebration in Harpers Ferry.

The Bolivar-Harpers Ferry District Veterans once again hosted the annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The parade, led by members of the Jefferson High School JROTC and the marching Tigers from Harpers Ferry Middle School, were joined by members of the Explorers groups and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, along with the veterans.

After Mayors Helen Detmer and Wayne Bishop, of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry respectively, laid the memorial wreath, Harpers Ferry band member Garrett Matthews played “Taps.” Veterans Group member Perry Mentzer then introduced the speaker of the day, Jefferson High School junior Dylan Martinez. Martinez is a member of the Jefferson High Junior AFROTC and volunteered to speak at the Memorial Day event.

“I wish we had more young people like Dylan,” Mentzer said, as he turned the microphone over to Martinez.

Martinez took a few moments to share with the crowd a little about himself, including that, in addition to being a member of the JROTC, he is also part of the Jefferson High football program.

“Football and ROTC are defining features of my character,” he said. “Through ROTC I have learned discipline, responsibility, punctuality and leadership skills. ROTC has helped me decide that I want to make a career out of the military and, if possible, be accepted into either U.S. Naval Academy or the USMA at West Point.”

Toni Milbourne/Chronicle Bolivar Mayor Helen Detmer and Harpers Ferry Mayor Wayne Bishop lay the wreath at the District Veterans’ event at Harpers Ferry Middle School.

Martinez then spoke about Memorial Day and what it means to him.

“To me, Memorial Day is not some minor holiday,” Martinez said. “It is a day in which all Americans, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion or any other detail that always seems to divide us as humans, need to come together to honor those who have fought and died serving in the best military the world has ever known with our utmost gratitude, admiration, respect, remembrance and to cherish those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

“Throughout the history of the United States, veterans have protected the rights and lives of people across the globe, but at a cost greater than any of us here today have paid,” he added.

Mentzer stepped back to the podium following Martinez’s address, and shared the words of a poem that brought the Army veteran to tears.

The poem, “Just a Common Soldier” by A. Lawrence Vaincourt, included the words: “He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife/ For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life. Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way/ And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.”

Mentzer apologized for crying while reading the poem, although many in the audience wiped away tears as well. He concluded his reading of the poem with the lines:

“If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise/ Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days. Perhaps just a simple headline in the paper that would say, Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.”