Thousands turn out locally for Memorial Day parades, events

Credit: Journal News

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Credit: Journal News

In so many incalculable ways Memorial Day is America’s most costly national holiday.

The collective debt owed to the nation’s military servicemen and women who gave their lives for their country can never be truly measured, only honored as it was locally on Monday’s national holiday.

Whether it be a parade through downtown Hamilton or Middletown, or cemetery ceremonies such as the one in West Chester Twp., Butler County came out by the thousands to pay their respects to those military veterans who died during and after their active-duty service.

And some of the traditional holiday events, paused since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returned this year drawing bigger than usual crowds.

Among the parade-goers were Julie Perley and her family, who traveled from Fairfield to West Chester for the full return of the township’s Memorial Day Parade and veterans’ ceremony at the Brookside Cemetery.

Each Memorial Day, members of the local Historical Society toll the bell for the more than 800 U.S. military veterans laid to rest in West Chester, while a parade winds through Olde West Chester.

It’s followed by a ceremony, including speeches, a military honor guard’s six-rifle firing salute and an echoing rendition of “Taps” by two buglers standing at a distance among the graves.

“We really appreciate it because obviously this holiday is so important,” said Perley.

“And we really appreciate all the service members and all the veterans who have sacrificed for our county. It’s important that we have these kind of (events) to honor and dedicate these events to them,” she said.

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Throughout Butler County on Monday, thousands turned out for Memorial Day parades and events to honor America's fallen military heroes. In Hamilton, military color guards and officials gathered at the downtown Veterans Memorial for the laying of the wreath ceremony. (Photo by Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

Throughout Butler County on Monday, thousands turned out for Memorial Day parades and events to honor America's fallen military heroes. In Hamilton, military color guards and officials gathered at the downtown Veterans Memorial for the laying of the wreath ceremony. (Photo by Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

Combined ShapeCaption
Throughout Butler County on Monday, thousands turned out for Memorial Day parades and events to honor America's fallen military heroes. In Hamilton, military color guards and officials gathered at the downtown Veterans Memorial for the laying of the wreath ceremony. (Photo by Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

Korean War veteran Cletus Withrow, 93 years old, sat for a few solitary minutes on a bench in the shadow of downtown Hamilton’s famed Soldiers, Sailors, Pioneers Monument before taking part as one of the honorees in this year’s Memorial Day wreath laying and parade.

A U.S. Army veteran, Withrow said he appreciates the way his hometown honors his military colleagues who died while protecting America’s freedom.

Gazing at the growing pre-parade crowd, Withrow said, “they do a great job in Hamilton on Memorial Day.”

U.S. Navy Captain Scott Eberwine was decked out in military formal dress whites for Hamilton’s ceremony.

Eberwine is the Senior Naval Science Instructor for the widely acclaimed Hamilton High School JROTC program and knows the city and its patriotic passions well.

“In the city of Hamilton there are so many different veteran organizations and so many people who have served and by serving have connected with the true meaning of what Memorial Day is and … recognizing those we have lost in service,” he said.

“The city turns out in full regalia to support this.”

And thousands turned out in Middletown too, for a parade from Smith Park to Woodside Cemetery, where state Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp.) was the featured speaker.

Jeri Lewis, chair of the city’s Memorial Day Parade, estimated more than 3,000 lined the three-mile parade route while more than 400 units joined in the parade, making it one of the largest in recent years.

The parade’s hiatus during the pandemic’s first two years was joyfully ended and celebrated along with the national holiday.

“After a couple of years of COVID-19, it felt like we were back,” Lewis said. “It was great seeing people out with their families and friends.”

Staff Writer Rick McCrabb contributed to this report.

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