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A memorial honoring the chaplains of the nation’s armed forces and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will be dedicated Oct. 12 at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.
The day will begin with a service at 10 a.m. at the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial, followed by the unveiling and a buffet luncheon. The public is invited.
Engraved by Gingrich Memorials in Middletown, the stone features the chaplaincy’s motto: “for God and country.”
There are also four “very colorful” emblems representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and VA, said the Rev. Bruce Farrell, vice president of the Susquehanna chapter of the Military Chaplains Association of the United States of America, which is sponsoring the memorial.
“That makes it pop,” he told LebTown, and will grab people’s attention. “Symbols and seals in the military are very important.”
Farrell described the granite tribute as “a thing of beauty.”
The Susquehanna chapter of the Military Chaplains Association raised $5,200 for the project. About a third went toward the porcelain emblems, which were made in California, Farrell said.
“It was worth every penny,” he said.
The cemetery’s new memorial is along a path with others, including those honoring submariners, Seabees, military musicians, and veterans of World War II’s China-Burma-India campaign, Farrell said.
A retired Army chaplain and colonel, he served two overseas deployments, one in Iraq and one in Kosovo. Farrell is currently pastor of Zion Goshert’s United Church of Christ on Mount Zion Road.
First authorized by the Continental Congress in 1775, the military chaplaincy has three purposes: to nurture the living, comfort the wounded and honor the dead, he explained. “You’re there to take care of the unit and the soldiers when someone dies.”
It can be dangerous duty, too. Farrell said he was within yards of a mortar explosion during the early days of his Iraq tour.
The Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial, where the dedication service is being held, is “one of the hidden gems of Lebanon County,” he said.
Resembling a bombed-out World War II cathedral, Farrell said, it features reflecting pools, granite benches and an amphitheater.
“There’s something very sacred about it,” he said. “The beauty and solemnity are very, very touching.”
According to the state’s Veterans Affairs website, the 107-foot high, 360-foot long open-air memorial, dedicated in October 2001, “is the first in the commonwealth to honor veterans of all eras from the Revolutionary War forward. … It is the largest veterans’ memorial located in any of the 143 national cemeteries operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”
The architecture “is peaceful and harmonious, containing the elements of air, land and water representative of the battlefields where our veterans fought for our freedom. A tomb for all fallen soldiers, known or unknown, is strategically placed, mindful of the sacrifices shared by veterans in the cause of freedom.”
Guest speaker for the dedication service is Major Gen. David Hicks, a retired Army chaplain who served as the Army’s chief of chaplains from 2003 to 2007. He retired from active service in 2007 and lives in Adams County.
A graduate of United Wesleyan College, Princeton Theological Seminary and Duke University, the ordained Presbyterian minister, who became an Army chaplain in 1974, served tours of duty in Korea, Germany and Alaska. Among Hicks’ numerous military decorations are the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two bronze oak leaf clusters, and the Meritorious Service Medal with one silver oak leaf cluster.
After the service, the memorial will be unveiled, accompanied by patriotic music, Farrell said, including “America the Beautiful” and the National Anthem.
The ceremonies will end with a noon buffet luncheon, hosted by the Susquehanna chapter of the Military Chaplains Association, at Fort Indiantown Gap Community Club.
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