Putting ‘Memorial’ back in Memorial Day
An integral part of the 2018 Great Pennsylvania Music & Arts Celebration (PennMArt) on Memorial Day Weekend will be three days of extensive programming to recognize the contributions of U.S. veterans, and to showcase Pennsylvania’s deeply-rooted role in the country’s military history. Appropriately, the inaugural event falls on the 100th anniversary year of the end of WWI, and the 150th anniversary of the first official Memorial Day.
Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Music Preservation Society (PAMPS), the celebration will be held on the site of the World War I Camp Crane ambulance training site at the historic Allentown Fairgrounds. PAMPS CEO Siobhan “Sam” Bennett notes that the region is home to 50,000 veterans, and the music preservation society takes extremely seriously its role in recognizing the positive contributions of veterans, and educating the public on the nation’s military history. “We want to put the Memorial back in Memorial Day.”
Veterans of yesterday will be remembered in a replica of a WWI log cabin originally built in 1917 to honor the soldiers from the 77th Division, who lost their lives during the bloody battle in the Argonne Forrest in France. Local members of the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment will build the replica to provide a space where Celebration attendees can post stories or photos of loved ones who have served or are serving in the military. “So We Don’t Forget to Remember.”
Other remembrances will include reenactments from the American Revolution, the Civil War and WWI and WWII. A military history series will include slide and video presentations on the history and tradition of the Purple Heart, the West End and Union Cemetery where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried together, and the contributions of African-American soldiers from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War’s U.S. Colored Infantry to today.
WWII Normandy bombardier and French Legion of Honor medal recipient Nathan Kline will be a featured speaker during the Memorial Day Weekend. He will tell his personal stories and show his collection of photos that he took during his bombing runs.
“In keeping with PAMPS mission to preserve and promote Pennsylvania’s distinct musical heritage,” Bennett added, “we also will be celebrating our military music traditions by featuring performances by the Allentown Band, the nation’s oldest civilian military band, and its colleague bands that make Allentown ‘Band City USA.’”
As part of benefiting veterans of today, Viola Hertzog, director of the Lehigh County Veterans Affairs Office, is working with PAMPS on some of the Celebration initiatives, including providing complimentary exhibition space for veterans’ organizations, and showcasing those that provide housing and other essential services. People attending the free public event will be encouraged to bring new toiletries and clothing to distribute to veterans and their families experiencing housing challenges.
As part of childrens’ activities, there will be materials available for youngsters to create greeting cards and other art to send to deployed servicemen and women.
The veterans of tomorrow will be showcased in the Junior ROTC Drill Invitational to be held during PennMArt. The inaugural 2018 drill team competition will feature local high school drill teams, including those from the award-winning Louis E. Dieruff HS Air Force JROTC, and William Allen HS’s Navy JROTC. Under the direction of Major Timothy Page (Dieruff) and Commander David Crandall (William Allen), the 2019 invitational will go statewide, with future plans for a national meet to be hosted annually by PAMPS at its Memorial Day Celebration.