BUTLER COUNTY — Communities throughout Butler and Warren counties paused Monday to pay their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Memorial Day parades and ceremonies were held in Hamilton, Middletown, Fairfield and West Chester Twp. in Butler County and in Franklin, Lebanon, Springboro and Mason in Warren County.
Thousands of people lined Verity Parkway as 427 units, the most in Middletown’s history, drove by as part of the city’s annual Memorial Day Parade. Jeri Lewis, the city’s coordinator of special events and projects and parade chair, said the parade was so large — she proclaimed it the biggest Memorial Day parade in the state — due to participation from the Dayton Shriners and eight local churches, twice as many as 2022.
Lewis, back at Smith Park after the parade and ceremony at Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum, said the parade “gets better and better every year.”
She was asked what went through her mind as she saw thousands of people who lined the 2.8-mile route from Smith Park to Woodside Cemetery.
“This is what community should look like,” she said. “I get emotional. I get emotional just thinking about it. I shed a tear or two. These are the memories our kids need to remember.”
Retired Sgt. John Kahne, 75, who served in the Army during Vietnam from 1966-69, was the parade grand marshal. When he was introduced at the ceremony, he received lengthy applause.
Middletown Municipal Court Judge James Sherron was the keynote speaker. He talked about the city’s rich military history and how 1,515 veterans are buried in the cemetery’s Veterans Section.
He said 60 Middletown citizens served in World War I and 40 died in combat. During World II, Sherron said, 400,000 Americans died, including 203 from Middletown.
“We all have family or friends who served and have fallen,” said Sherron, whose father served in World War II and the Korean conflict. “We may think about them often, but not often enough. Today I challenge you not to just remember those individuals, but to think about their service to our country.”
In Hamilton, American Legion Post 138 conducted a wreath laying ceremony in front of the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument building.
The 17STRONG Memorial Day Parade was held followed by the ceremony at Greenwood Cemetery where retired Army Lt. Col. William Moeller delivered the keynote address.
On the day for backyard cookout and games, Moeller said: “Let us not forget that the purpose of Memorial Day is intended to be a somber remembrance of U.S. military personnel who died in service. Your presence here at this dedicated time for honoring those who gave up their tomorrows for your today, plants the seed for our future generations for years to come.”
Over the years, Memorial Day has become “one of tremendous importance” to our national spirit, said Moeller, the older brother of Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller
Regardless of where people celebrate Memorial Day, “we are united with love and respect for those who answered the call of selfless duty, but did not make it home alive to be with their family and friends,” he said.
Moeller said he served 32 years, four years as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and 28 years in uniform.
“It has been a privilege and honor to have a career in one of the highest callings of service — the military,” he said. “The U.S. Constitution is the foundation of how America comes to its greatness. To preserve our Constitution requires selfless military service and sacrifice.”