BOYERTOWN — More than 150 people attended the 19th Salute to Our Veterans event sponsored by the Boyertown Rotary Club and hosted by St. John’s Lutheran Church on Nov. 7.
The 2019 theme for Veterans Day is “Service,” explained Stephanie L. Landis, principal of Boyertown Middle School West and vice president of the Boyertown Rotary Club.
After the presentation of the colors by the Boyertown Area Senior High NJROTC, the National Anthem performed by the Boyertown Middle School East/West Combined Show Choir, and an invocation by Pastor Bob Machamer, Landis introduced a video presentation.
“I hope it helps history come to life for you, just as it did for me,” said Landis. “We thank all of our veterans for their service to our community both in times of war and in peace.”
Recorded at Chestnut Knoll Senior Living in Boyertown, the video featured eight local veterans, seven men and one woman, from WWII and the Korean War answering the question “Why do we serve?”
The video features Ed Bean, Navy Seaman Guard, Flight Crew; Army Corporal Frank Miller; WWII Navy Vet Henry Stofko; WWII and Korean War Navy Fire Controller Emil Schultheisz; Korean War Army Dispatcher Gerry Flicker; Army Sergeant Robert Weir; WWII Marine Duty NCO Polly Rohrbach and WWII Army Mortar Gunner Frank Eddinger.
Navy Seaman Guard, Ed Bean, drafted at 18 years old said, “We need to defend ourselves.”
Army Cpl. Frank Miller, joked, “Because I was sent a letter in the mail (drafted).”
Polly Rohrbach - Duty NCO, Marines, was stationed with her twin sister during WWII, said “We (Polly and her sister) saw Marines on the streets and thought why not do that.”
Army Mortar Gunner Frank Eddinger, said, “I was drafted. I think every young man should put in at least one year of (military) service. It’s good for them. I grew up; you have to grow up when they are shooting at you.”
The event guest speaker, William Schweitzer, retired Security Forces Operations Superintendent, said before joining the military, “My horizon was literally three miles. That’s how far it was to my high school. My grade school was two blocks away. That’s all I knew. I knew there was a big world out there and I truly wanted to see it.”
“I have known Bill Schweitzer for several years. His lifelong dedication to his country made him a natural choice as our honored speaker. Senior Master Sergeant Bill Schweitzer retired in August with 42 years in the Air Force/National Guard as a Security Force serving as a reservist in Willow Grove, Pa. Of those 42 years, 8½ years was in active duty status. Bill has traveled the world and has served with some of the best men and women he now considers his second family,” said Landis.
The music group, Swing Shift, performed Swing music from the 1930s and '40s, including “Moten Swing,” “Sentimental Journey,” “Stormy Weather,” and “‘Night and Day.”
Michael Hofke, Swing Shift founder, leader, and trumpet player said, “This is our first year performing (at Salute to Our Veterans). We believe it important to honor those who have served and sacrificed in order for the rest of us to live in peace and be able to pursue our interests.”
Boyertown Middle School East/West Combined Show Choir performed: “‘Our America,” “When peace Shall Come,” “Let Freedom Ring,” and “Song for the Unsung Hero.”
“The students attend a week-long summer camp where the choir members begin learning the music for the event,” explained Landis.
Swing Shift and the Show Choir received a standing ovation when they performed together “A Tribute to the Armed Forces (a medley)” during which veterans in the audience are encouraged to stand as they heard their service hymn played.
In her closing remarks, Landis quoted John F. Kennedy, "There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction."
Landis concluded with “thank you, veterans, for your actions that allow us to experience life, liberty and freedom in the greatest country on earth.”
The tribute concluded with a Benediction from Pastor Bob Machamer.