The 54th annual Mohnton Memorial Day Parade, held May 26, began with a three-shot rifle salute that echoed through the clear skies.
The parade concluded at Mohnsville Cemetery with a ceremony honoring military veterans who have died in combat.
Parade marchers included the Mohnton/Cumru Lions Club, VFW Post 9045 Color Guard and Women’s Auxillary, Women Veterans of Berks County, Reading Buccaneers, Governor Mifflin High School Marching Band, several Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, and the Happy Dutchmen German Band.
Spectators ogled at the wealth of classic vehicles in the parade, which included a WWII Jeep, a WWII weapons carrier, the Berks County Mustang Club, and the Gold Wing Road Riders Association Motorcycle Club.
The parade strode down West Wyomissing Avenue before ending at Mohnsville Cemetery. A crowd of about 200 people gathered at the cemetery with many bringing lawn chairs and huddling under trees to escape from the hot sun.
Guest speaker Major General Randall R. Marchi delivered a speech that highlighted the impact felt by families of military casualties.
To sum up the importance of the Memorial Day holiday, Marchi said, “Across our nation on this Memorial Day, we remember our fallen. We reflect on our sacrifices, and also give thanks for the freedom secured by these lost warriors.”
Marchi then told the stories of several Pennsylvania National Guard members who have died while serving in the military.
The first soldier Marchi talked about Army Sgt. Sherwood Baker of Plymouth, Pa. Baker worked as a caseworker helping people with disabilities before his deployment to Iraq. “[Baker] was excited about his mission to Iraq. He wanted to make a difference there and come home to serve the community as a childcare worker.” Baker died during Operation Iraqi Freedom on April 26, 2004, at the age of 30.
Marchi told the story of Army Sgt. Frances J. Straub, Jr. of Philadelphia, Pa. Straub organized a successful effort to ship flip-flops to Iraqi children who otherwise had no shoes to wear. Straub was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom on Aug. 9, 2005, at the age of 24.
The third story Marchi told was that of Army Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin of Mercer, Pa. Marchi and McLaughlin had been friends while serving in the PA National Guard together. “After being wounded, [McLaughlin] insisted that the medics take care of the other wounded first,” said Marchi who appeared to be holding in tears as he told his friend’s story. McLaughlin died during Operation Iraqi Freedom on Jan. 5, 2006, at the age of 44.
“It takes a special person to be in the military and live by our values. It takes a hero to follow those values when one’s life is hanging in the balance,” concluded Marchi.
Following Marchi’s speech, The Belle Tones performed an a cappella rendition of “America the Beautiful.” The crowd was then invited to enjoy a Memorial Day pig roast at VFW Post 9045. Proceeds from the Memorial Day pig roast will be used to help homeless and needy veterans in Berks County.