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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  •  Post 311 honors troops of Iraq, Afghan wars

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  • Managing EditorAmerican Legion Wilson-Kelch Post 311 in Hawley served as the host this past Saturday for a tribute specifically for military or veterans who serve or have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a rare sort of tribute, and the first to single them out, held in Wayne County.Tranquil blue skies and comfortable temperatures prevailed as the short but dignified parade stepped forth at 12 noon on Church Street. Throngs lined the four block route, many with US flags, some with posters.Applause was repeated and prolonged as the soldiers from Pa. National Guard Company A, 1st Battalion 109th (Mech.) 109th Infantry marched smartly in their uniforms.About to deploy to Kuwait, Company A has headquarters at the Lemnitzer armory in Honesdale.The approximately 36 soldiers were near the end of the parade, which also contained veterans, Borough and County officials, the color guard from Post 311 in the front and a contingent from the Wayne pike Detachment US Marine Corps League. Bagpipers also took part. A significant part of the procession were two convertibles, each containing a local Gold Star mother. Riding in honor were Janet Bowen, mother of Sgt. Paul A. Sweeney of Lakeville, killed in combat in Afghanistan on October 30, 2003, and Mary Beisel, mother of Lcpl Jacob Walter Beisel of Lackawaxen, killed in action in Iraq on March 31, 2006.Wallenpaupack Junior Buckhorn cheer leaders carried posters honoring Wallenpaupack graduates who are serving in the Armed Forces.During a brief ceremony in front of the Post- before everyone was invited to enjoy the complimentary picnic, Major General Daniel O誰eill (Ret). PA National Guard, offered his thanks for those who served and do serve.The former commander of Company A said that he has received calls from Guardsmen asking help to be accepted for deployment, to join their comrades, but never once did he get a call from a soldier trying to back out. He said this was true of all our branches of Armed Services.Asking the soldiers still standing at attention for a show of hands, numerous indicated they had deployed to Iraq, or to Afghanistan; some have deployed multiple times. All were deploying again. In this case, Company A is leaving around Sept. 13 for training which will lead to deployment in Kuwait. They are scheduled to be away a year.As Citizen Soldiers, they once again depart from home and put their jobs on hold as they answer the call. General O誰eill gave tribute to the families as well, who must endure. He said that the Guard is considering changing the routine from two-week duty annually (as well as the monthly weekend duties) with increased requirements in each year and a two-year cycle of deployment. He acknowledged this will be a challenge to soldiers and their employers.General O誰eill gave special recognition to the two Gold Star mothers and their families seated in front of the podium, on the street. He thanked them for participating that day and said it helps us remember what we do is for a reason. He said he had also spoke with the family of Sgt. Andrew Brown of Pleasant Mount, who was killed in combat in Iraq on October 1, 2004.O誰eill admonished anyone thinking that families of fallen soldiers need to "move on" with their lives, to not say that unless they are in the shoes of those families experiencing such a loss. The General said he has twice had to go to the home of some military service member who died, to bring the news.Among the crowd attending the block party was a Vietnam vet, Frank Sampson, of Hawley. "We didn稚 have this kind of homecoming," Sampson commented. "But that was then and this is now, and I知 proud of them." He said those who are serving each deserve our thanks.Said Pastor Bruce Burke, who was attending with his wife Doris, "We池e honored to be anywhere near these fellas.""They did a terrific job," Mayor Kevin Hawk stated. "What a nice event," Tim French is commander of the American Legion Post 807 in Hamlin, which is named for Sgt. Paul A. Sweeney. "This is a fitting tribute to these guys who don稚 get recognized often enough," he said. "I知 proud to be among the crowd."The tribute was coordinated by Post 311 Auxiliary, whose president is Mary Jane Graf.During the event. Sgt. Melissa MacDowell, USMC, led in the National Anthem. MSG Francis DeFazio, USAF and commander of Post 311, led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Prayers were offered by Rev. William Sanford and Deacon Matthew Lorent.
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