EAST PALESTINE - Quoting a poem, World War II and Korean War veteran Robert Bertachy reminded the crowd gathered in East Palestine's park, "It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion."
The poem continued that veterans are responsible for freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and the right to vote.
"It is the veteran who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag."
Bertachy, a past state commander of the Disabled American Veterans, thanked the crowd which gathered in East Palestine on a chilly Memorial Day. He noted they are the ones who realize Memorial Day is more than just a day to celebrate the start of summer. It should be a solemn occasion spent in reflection because all the freedoms we enjoy were made possible by a veteran and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Bertachy pointed out that 230 years ago the Revolutionary War was coming to an end with the Treaty of Paris. It was 200 years ago when lives were still being lost during the War of 1812 and 150 years ago, in 1863, the Gettysburg Address was delivered. Additionally, World War II was 70 years ago and in 1973 the Vietnam War ended.
Bertachy said it will never be known what the men and women who died defending freedom would have accomplished in their lives. In Afghanistan, men and women continue to put their lives on the line today.
Recent legislation is placing even more women on the front lines and 17 percent of those serving in the military are women, he said.
He noted the soldiers lost in the past and now are all real people, they were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who were mourned by family members and friends. The burdens of those who are making it home from Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be felt by their families as well. Bertachy reminded the crowd of the importance of assisting returning veterans and helping the widows and children of those who do not return.
Bertachy, a former director at Camp McKinley, continues to serve veterans. He has logged more than 150,000 miles and 8,000 hours volunteering as a van driver to assist veterans needing transportation to VA hospitals and clinics.
A gun salute by the joint forces of the East Palestine American Legion and former VFW was given, along with the playing of "Taps" by Mark Ortega and Taylor Townsend of the East Palestine marching band.