SCHWENKSVILLE >> “What helps keep me centered is when I keep in mind that evil prevails when good men and women do nothing to stop it.”
That was what Major Eric Ponzek told veterans and students he tries to remember when it is difficult to understand war and the sacrifices of the military. Ponzek opened Thursday’s Memorial Day ceremony as veterans and students gathered together inside St. Mary’s Parish in Schwenksville. The ceremony, which is now in its 12th year, celebrates the sacrifices of military men and women and remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Following the presentation of the colors, attendees sang the national anthem with hands over their hearts before wreaths representing each branch of the military were blessed.
Colonel Mark S. Alexander Sr., retired U.S. Army veteran, then addressed students and veterans on the importance of the upcoming holiday.
“When we all went into the service we took a solemn oath to defend the Constitution of our United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. We wrote a check that was blank that said we would give everything including our lives for our country, for that flag,” said Alexander. “That flag means everything to me ... To be able to recognize our brothers and sisters who weren’t fortunate enough to come home, we live through them in our day to day lives. We get to have a tomorrow because they gave their today.”
Following Alexander’s remarks, students performed a flag-folding demonstration and sang a military version of “Hallelujah.” As students concluded their song, Lieutenant Corporal Jason Heflin, United States Marine Corps, spoke with veterans and students about his time in the Marines, the friends he had lost and what Memorial Day is meant to represent.
“Every one of you young people in this room owes a debt,” said Heflin. “You owe a debt to the people who have given their lives in the service of this country, in this experiment we call America. How do you repay that debt? You repay that debt by living a life worth living; by living in the light of love and compassion and empathy for your fellow man. Regardless of religion, race, creed, love your neighbors like your brother.”
Wreaths were then presented in front of the altar and those in attendance were encouraged to announce the names of loved ones and friends they lost in the line of duty. The ceremony closed with the singing of “Amazing Grace” and a final prayer.