The United States will hit a milestone July 9 no one wants to hit.
Veterans were told Monday during the annual Memorial Day service at the Warren Community Amphitheatre that July 9 will mark the longest period in history in which the United States has been involved in war. Herm Breuer, of the Trumbull County Veterans Services Board, was referring to America's involvement in the war in Afghanistan, which began Oct. 7, 2001.
Breuer said the fact is sobering because it means there are people who have known war since they were young children. He said a lot of soldiers serving now were in grade school during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Veterans in Warren and at similar ceremonies around the Mahoning Valley and the nation were marking the day Monday by supporting those who are fighting now and remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Locally, veterans in Niles, Austintown, Weathersfield and several other locations were remembering the fallen servicemen and women.
Gerard Trudell of Niles, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, said every Memorial Day he remembers the sacrifice of war.
From left, Joe Zakrajesak; his brother, Rudy; Steve Milik and Steve Tombor salute during the Memorial Day celebration at the Warren Community Amphitheatre Monday. Photo by Joe Gorman
''I just think back of all the guys I was with and all the losses, all the fellas we lost,'' Trudell said. ''This brings back memories. We just hope no one forgets. We just hope everyone remembers on this day.''
Ralph McMillin of Cortland was at the Warren ceremony. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served in Vietnam, he said he is amazed at how the culture has changed because he said he remembers returning home and the Air Force advised the men to wear civilian clothes so they could avoid protesters.
''More people have respect for the veterans,'' McMillin said.
Leslie Parkey of Warren also served in the Air Force during Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served a total of 31 years, 10 of those years as active duty. He said the holiday is a way for people to step back and remember the people who paid the price for freedom.
''It's a time for us to give back and pay respect for those who served so we can have the freedom to do things,'' Parkey said.
Tom Trunick, who served in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division during peacetime, said a lot of people do not realize how many of their citizens are veterans. The holiday is a good way for them to be reminded of the veterans in their midst.
During the traditional ceremony in Warren, a wreath was cast on to the Mahoning River from its banks by Richard McGrath, an Army veteran and head of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1090. In his remarks to the crowd, McGrath said veterans have a special bond that cannot be broken, especially on Memorial Day.
''Today, we are all one,'' McGrath said.
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said he wanted to ensure people do not forget those serving now who are in a combat zone or overseas.
''Those are the heroes of today, and we remain steadfast in our support of them,'' Franklin said.
At Weathersfield Township's Memorial Day observance, Pastor Logan Thompson, with Church of Christ, urged those in attendance at Kerr Cemetery to consider what it is they think about during the holiday.
''When we consider our country's history we often think of the presidents, elected senators and congressmen and the politicians. But today we should honor all those serving in our military,'' Thompson said.
Nick DePizzo, quartermaster with VFW Post 4192 in Mineral Ridge, pointed out how the Post this year placed 600 flags on the gravesites of veterans. Besides the 600 flags at Kerr Cemetery, another 50 flags each were placed in two other smaller cemeteries in Weathersfield.
At an open house at VFW Post 1090 in Warren, members were praising parade organizers downtown.
''The members of the lady's and men's auxiliary deserve a lot of the credit here,'' said Lynn Waldron, a Vietnam vet and a member at 1090.
Warren Councilman John Brown and others at the 1090 open house praised the a cappella performance at the Warren ceremony of 10-year-old Elora Davis of Rome, who sang ''Oh America.''