Sunday, September 26, 2021

Veterans Honored, Korean War Memorial Dedicated

Photos by Evan Brandt
Veterans salute Saturday during the singing of the national anthem.

Veterans, their efforts in and out of the service, were recognized on Veterans Island Saturday morning during the annual Pottstown Veterans Community Day.

Three Glass Tear Awards, which recognize veterans both for their service and their service to the community as civilians, were given out and the refurbished bandshell was officially dedicated as the Korean War Memorial.

The refurbished bandshell in Memorial Park was
dedicated as the Korean War Memorial Saturday.
Often known as "The Forgotten War," words memorialized by a plague on the memorial, it claimed the lives of 54,246 Americans. 

The recipients of the Glass Tear Awards were Robert Edmunds, U.S. Army; David Garner, U.S. Marines; and Michael Gmitter, U.S. Army.

"These are people who serve their country in war time and in peace time, but who come home and serve the community," explained Cathy Paretti, an Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioner and driving force behind the idea of a well-maintained and enhanced Veterans Island in Pottstown's Memorial Park.

Parks and Recreation Director Michael Lenhart said it was 2015 when Paretti approached him with her idea of "community stewardship" for sprucing up "the island." 

Robert Edmunds received a Glass Tear Award
"We've accomplished much more than I ever thought we would in a short time. We have lights on the World War II Memorial. We moved the World War II Cannon to an appropriate location, we have security cameras in place and now we have refurbished and are about to dedicated the bandshell to Korean War Veterans," he said.

"I have a few more ideas," Paretti warned him.

The first Glass Tear honoree was Robert Edmunds, who choked up as he spoke about the honor. "I feel like I'm hearing my own eulogy right now," he said.

Robert Edmunds receives his glass tear award
from Dean Beers Saturday.
Edmunds, who is among the volunteers who comes twice monthly to clean the memorials, said vandals who desecrated one of the memorials "don't know what we've been through. Whoever did this doesn't know what they did. This is not a shrine, it's a reminder of those who fell before us. These are tears of pain I have."

"This is not a 'me' thing. This is a 'we' thing," Edmunds continued. "We have soldiers who return as citizens and some of them come back broken, mentally and physically. We have sisters-in-arms who are doing their jobs. And we don't do it for accolades, or pats on the back. We do it because our heart and souls is here in Pottstown.

David Garner served in the U.S. Marines
The second Glass Tear Award recipient was David Garner.

"I am a member of a family who modeled a life of service," said Garner, whose father, grandfather and several uncles all served in the military.

He thanked them, he thanked "God who walked with me every step of the way," and he thanked his wife "who never said no when I announced I had to get involved in another organization," Garner said.

Before ending his remarks, Garner gave a shout out to all his fellow Marines by saying simple, "Semper Fi."

Michael Gmitter served in the U.S. Army
For those who don't know, the translation of the Latin phrase is "Always Faithful."

The third award recipient, Michael Gmitter, served in the U.S. Army and now works for both the state and federal government re-capturing parolees who have become fugitives.

His is also a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, an organization he said he is "truly blessed" to be a part of.

The day's keynote speaker was state Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, R-147th Dist., whose district includes West Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove, Douglass (Mont.) and New Hanover among others.

Michael Gmitter receives his star. One was handed
out to every veterans by Rebecca West Hensinger,
Ms. Berks County, and 
Tiffany Revel,
Mrs. Pennsylvania, not shown here.
Pennycuick is a veteran herself. She is a "U.S. Army combat veteran who retired from the military after 26 years of both active and reserve service. During her military career she served as a helicopter pilot, aviation maintenance officer, company commander, human resources officer, executive officer, efficiency expert and foreign liaison to the UK Ministry of Defense," according to her website.

State Rep. Tracy Pennycuick was Saturday's
Keynote Speaker
"She continues to serve the veteran community as a volunteer veteran service officer and board member of several veteran-focused nonprofits," according to her bio.

In her remarks, Pennycuick said "I served because I wanted to serve my country. And when I look out into this audience, I see the men and women who had my six, You had my back," she said.

She sympathized with those whose service came at the end of a draft notice. "what a terrible, terrible thing to be told you are going into combat," she said.

She thanks Koren War veterans. "No one ever talks about those long cold nights and the endless combat," she said. "You are the 1 percent," she told veterans. "And of those 1 percent, only 1 percent of them serve in combat."

Michael Murphy, who is also a prime mover in the Veterans Island effort, provided the dedication of the Korean War memorial, saying that like the veterans who lived it, "it's a survivor. It's withstood the constant floods."

The event closed with a three-gun salute and taps provided by the Veterans Rider Association.


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      The Korean War is one of many irrational conflicts that were fought in the 20th century. Peace is something we should all pursue to prevent this from happening again.
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