On Monday, May 27, Palmyra held its annual Memorial Day observance at the Palmyra War Memorial on the corner of Cinnaminson and Parry avenues.
President of the Palmyra War Memorial Committee and U.S. Navy veteran Tom McElwee acted as master of ceremonies and opened the event thanking everyone who contributed to or would be participating in the observance.
Before passing the mic to Palmyra Police Chaplain Charlie Soper of Epworth United Methodist Church, who delivered the invocation, McElwee started with a statement of purpose for the community event and the wider national holiday.
“Today we’re here to remember all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said McElwee.
He offered some sobering numbers as reminders of those sacrifices from our history as a nation. Some 116,708 American soldiers died in World War I, 405,399 in World War II, 36,574 in Korea, 58,209 in Vietnam and, to date, 5,186 in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to McElwee.
Mayor Michelle Arnold spoke following the invocation and singing of the national anthem by Palmyra High School senior Shaniyah Williams.
“Memorial Day is a time that we set aside to reflect and honor those who have paved freedom road. We may become accustomed to the many freedoms we enjoy each day and we may tend to forget that we owe a debt to the heroic men and women who have made these freedoms possible. They deserve our eternal gratitude,” said Arnold.
The mayor closed with a quote from President John F. Kennedy: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
The guest speaker was U.S. Marine Corps veteran Michael Kozkowski. A Palmyra High School graduate, Kozkowski enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduating in 1962. During his time with the Marines, he rose to the rank of chief warrant officer 4, and retired in 1998.
Speaking as a veteran of the Vietnam War, Kozkowski not only acknowledged those who died and the reason we remember our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, but gave reason to remember them fondly.
“You don’t want to dwell on the somber and the sadness. Those that served with them should remember how they were when you served with them, the fun things that you did. Everybody has sad memories from that Vietnam thing, but you remember the guys you served with and all the goofy things you used to do together,” said Kozkowski.
Prior to Memorial Day, an essay contest was held for seventh- and eighth-grade students in Palmyra. The essayists wrote about what Memorial Day means to them. At the observance, the winner for seventh grade, Alyssa Fusco, winner for eighth grade, Wil Weaver, and the overall winner for both grades, Calli Carr, had an opportunity to read their essays.
Carr’s winning essay took the form of a rhyming poem.
“On a Monday in May, we save a day, for those who have served this country,” Carr read. “Who gave up their lives, left their children, husbands and wives and now our country thrives.”