Crowd remembers veterans

Light drizzle and chilly temperatures couldn’t snuff out the patriotic spirits of the Randolph County residents who attended the city’s Memorial Day ceremony Monday.

Carrying umbrellas and zipping up hooded jackets, relatives and friends of veterans both alive and fallen filled up the seats in front of the All-Veterans Memorial, where the ceremony took place that morning.

“This is a day on which we come to honor the fallen … not the living ones, but the ones who have given the supreme sacrifice,” Charles Ranew, American Legion District 9 commander and past president of Elkins American Legion Post 29, told the crowd as the ceremony got underway.

Just prior to its start, Elkins resident Mabel Marks said she’d come to do just that – however, living veterans were on her mind and in her heart, too, she added.

“My twin brother, Melvin T. Marks, and my father, Melvin C. Marks, were both veterans in the Army, but I’m here for all veterans,” she said. “They all need prayer, prayer, prayer … every single one of them.”

Elkins Mayor Van Broughton reminded the crowd that Memorial Day weekend “wasn’t about beaches or picnics or automobile races,” but rather, “God and country and family.”

“By staying true to these principles, we are honoring (fallen veterans’) sacrifices,” he said. “Remembering once a year does not seem like enough. The widows and widowers and mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers remember them every day, and we owe them no less.”

Monday’s ceremony served as a learning experience for many who may have been unfamiliar with the U.S. Coast Guard, one of the five armed forces of the United States. Lt. Commander Jonathan Schafler with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Pittsburgh delivered the keynote address, describing the duties and accomplishments of the Coast Guard, which was established in 1790 and has been involved in every conflict the U.S. has entered since the country’s inception. It currently operates under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Ninety percent of the world’s trade is carried on the water,” said Schafler, who manages the National Wildlife Refuge in Canaan Valley for his civilian job. “The sea provides opportunities, but the sea also provides threats. The sea can be a highway for criminals.”

Schafler said on any given day, the Coast Guard keeps half a ton of cocaine off the streets, saves 11 lives and rescues 74 percent of mariners in danger. A few of the Coast Guard’s 11 missions include defense readiness, migrant interdiction, marine environmental protection and federal law enforcement.

Schafler also thanked fallen veterans everywhere for their selfless sacrifices and the American Legion, which organized the ceremony, for the opportunity to discuss the Coast Guard’s missions.

Before attendees enjoyed refreshments, Ranew again took the podium, saying he had a few points he wanted to emphasize.

“It is the military and veterans, not the reporters who have given us freedom of the press,” he read from the ceremony program. “It is the military and veterans, not the campus organizer, who give us the freedom to demonstrate.

“It is the military and veterans, who salute the flag, who serve beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allow the protester to burn the flag,” he continued.

“A veteran is – whether on active duty, retired or reserve – someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America, for an amount up to and including their life.”

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