Under an overcast sky, Boyertown honored its military sons and daughters with the annual Memorial Day parade up East Philadelphia Avenue.The event concluded Monday morning with a ceremony at the Fairview and Union cemeteries.

Ceremonial wreaths were laid by members of the United States Marine Corps League, Charles B. Yerger American Legion Post 471, the American Legion Auxiliary, the Boyertown Area Senior High School's Jr. Naval ROTC, the Junior Women's Club, the Patriotic order of the Sons of America, the Boyertown Exchange Club and the Keystone Fire Company.

Joseph C. Hare, a retired member of the U.S. Navy, extolled the virtues of serving and protecting the nation.

A fiberglass bear statue dressed in camouflage now stands in salute at the Fairview Cemetery entrance.

Last week, the Bear Fever memorial was permanently mounted on a granite pedestal by Scarlett Kulp and her father Rodney Kulp, uncle Ron Christman and grandfather John J. Leffel Jr.

Scarlett Kulp launched a plan last spring to create the military bear in honor of New Berlinville soldier Travis Zimmerman, who was killed while serving in Iraq. Lights and a flag pole will eventually be installed.

"This girl helped people get friend and all of Boyertown's heroes," said Mayor Marianne Deery.

Numerous citizens examined the statue, some with forlorn expressions, and read the plaque that honors Zimmerman, a 2005 Boyertown Area Senior High School graduate, and all veterans for their heroic sacrifices, loyalty and dedication to freedom.

" I say this every year," Deery said. "But I'm so glad to see all the children. They must understand the sacrifices our forefathers made to make Boyertown such a wonderful place."

Rear Admiral Hare (Ret.) noted that the most dedicated sailors he ever encountered were from small towns.

Until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said most thought the people who wanted to harm Americans were an ocean away.

"The only way to keep your freedom is to be willing to fight for it," said Hare, who removed the microphone from the stand to address the crowd assembled behind him on Route 73.

"From George Washington to George W. Bush, America has always been involved in conflicts. We will always debate the politics of how best to protect ourselves. But we've got to remember the millions of people willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom," Hare said.

Contact reporter Bradley Schlegel at 610-367-6041, ext. 240 or bschlegel @berksmontnews.com.

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