Service celebrates veterans' patriotism
HUNTINGTON -- Patriotism is in the small things, said retired Army Chaplain Pablo Gonzales, like hearing the song of a blue jay, watching a sunset or sitting on your front porch sipping an iced tea. But, it's also in the big things, like sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a veteran or seeing the American flag pass by.
"The greatest example of patriotism sits among you today, these men and women who have served our country," Gonzales said, speaking at the 65th annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Memorial Arch in Huntington. "It's watching that American flag wave her stars and stripes. Something about that brings out the patriotism in all of us.
"Patriotism doesn't grow on trees. It has no age requirement," he continued. "It has to be felt and experienced. It's the reason we're all here today."
Gonzales served as the guest speaker for Monday's ceremony, which included musical selections, the presentation of 40 wreaths from area groups and the playing of "Taps." The event takes place annually at the arch, a replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, located at the intersection of Memorial Boulevard and 11th Avenue West. Construction on the arch took place in the 1920s, a monument to honor Huntington and Cabell County soldiers who served in World War I.
"It's a beautiful day to be grateful for our freedom and thank those military heroes who gave up their tomorrows so we can have our todays," said Ron Wroblewski, general chairman of the Veterans Committee for Civic Improvement and Monday's master of ceremonies.
Pamela Smith, associate director of the Huntington VA Medical Center, said Monday's ceremony honors the fallen and remembers the more than 1.3 million service members defending the United States around the world.
"We can never say enough appreciation for the fallen and for those serving today," Smith said. "We gather here simply because there were those that went before us that allow us to do this here today."
Director of the VA Regional Office in Huntington, Leanne Weldin, encouraged those in attendance to greet a veteran and thank them for their service.
"Shake a veteran's hand and give them a look in your eye that says, 'I am thankful for your service,'" Weldin offered.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams told the veterans in attendance they had helped to create "the fabric of the lives we know today."
"We know you are our Sunday School teachers, our neighbors, the fathers and mothers of those with whom we grew up," Williams said. "We are able to stand here today in this lovely park, in large measure, because you chose to interrupt your lives to preserve our freedoms."
Kevin Brady, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District, offered a small suggestion for the crowd to carry with them beyond Memorial Day and its pageantry.
"As I was driving in to town, I saw a lot of flags on homes today," Brady said. "I don't know why we don't do that every day."
Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.