MILLVILLE – Almighty God, Giver of all victories, help us to remember, with reverence, the valor and devotion of our departed comrades.
So go the opening words of a prayer that Russel Samano of the Millville American Legion has offered to the honor of our fallen local heroes each May for 21 years now.
The prayers are part of an annual tour of observance that is much older.
For eight decades, every year since 1933, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the veterans from the Millville American Legion have taken the “Around the Horn Tour,” stopping at cemeteries throughout the greater Millville area.
“We haven’t been doing it that long, but somebody has,” Samano joked.
May we honor them by ever cherishing the great ideals for which they fought and died.
At each stop a wreath is placed on the grave of a selected service man or woman, prayers are said, 21 guns are fired, and the sacrifices of America’s bravest are honored.
“This tradition started 80 years ago…. It’s our one chance to specifically honor our local veterans for the sacrifices that they made,” explained Samano.
In the generations since the tour began, our country has fought in a world war, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and numerous other engagements around the globe.
Help us be always mindful of the sacrifices made by all the men and women of our military so that freedom, justice and democracy endure.
The local tour pays tribute to men and women from all eras, all branches of the service, to those who fell in battle and those who came safely home. The grave sites are as varied and diverse as the American character. Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Quaker: all faiths and all creeds are united on the tour through a shared faith in American solidarity.
Some of the headstones are ancient, crusted with moss and worn by the slow weathering of years to the point that the names can hardly be read.
Some are new, and the names stand sharp and clear in new granite.
Perd Stadler has mouldered in his isolated rest among a grove of cedars in Port Elizabeth since the era of the Revolution.
Bob Carter, a member of the Millville American Legion who served in the Navy during the Korean War era was interred in Leesburg earlier this year.
Though they lived hundreds of years apart, they were honored as brothers by those who survive them.
May your merciful blessing rest upon those they left behind. Comfort
them and send them your peace, the peace that surpasses all
understanding; the peace that shall have no end.
“This tour is to memorialize our fallen comrades,” said Scott Harris, Commander of the American Legion.
Harris is on his second go-round as Commander of the post, having taken over as for Rick Rizzo while he recovers from cancer.
The Naval veteran is a 13-year member of the post, and is also the Quartermaster of the Millville VFW.
“Veterans Day is for the living, and Memorial Day is for the dead,” Commander Harris explained.
But this tour is for the local heroes; friends and neighbors, fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers, stretching back to the earliest days of our American heritage.
On Sunday dozens of veterans, Boy Scouts, Civil War reenactors, surviving family members, and citizens of the greater Millville community endured the rain in order to pay solemn tribute.
As the rain fell, the crash of the guns saluting the fallen reminded all present of the martial heritage that is so emblematic of the American identity. Each ceremony was brief, and the tour moved with regimental efficiency through all 21 stops, laying the wreaths with care and offering sincere prayers of gratitude.
As we pause here where they rest, may we resolve to continue the good works which they began.
May they rest in peace.
With the mournful notes of Taps echoing among the graves of the fallen, a community paid tribute to that lasting peace which has been secured through the efforts of the bravest few.
Contact staff writer Phillip Tomlinson at 856-451-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org