Hughesville Marine with Purple Heart speaks of transition to civilian life
MUNCY – Perfect weather brought a fairly large crowd to the annual Memorial Day parade and service this year. Starting shortly after 11 a.m. the parade moved from the Unity Mart on North Main Street up through South Main Street to Penn Street and ended at the Muncy Cemetery around noon.
A warm welcome was given to several bystanders by Mark Minier, Commander of the American Legion Roland Ritter Post 268. “Welcome to the sacred visible presence of those who gave before us,” he said to the audience while encouraging them to renew our pledge to our country and its flag.
Pastor Robert Rice from the Muncy Baptist Church gave an invocation followed by the “Star Spangled Banner” performed by the Muncy High School Marching Band.
Commander Minier introduced guest speaker SGM Luke T. Converse who resides in Hughesville and is retired from the United States Marine Corps. He served from 1985 to 2011 and spoke of his Iraq experience which is “forever buried in my heart,” he told everyone. He spoke of the personal effects the war placed forever in his memory and the loss of Marines who were killed in battle. He achieved a Purple Heart in 2011 after returning from active duty.
Sergeant Major Converse related his challenges coming home in 2004 from deployment. “Coming from combat back to life in the United States with family and friends and no one shooting at you, was an adjustment.”
The 1985 Hughesville High School graduate began his career in the service immediately after graduation and spent 25 years in the Marines. He was deployed in 1990, taken hostage and held in Baghdad. After he was released, he went to Saudia Arabia for combat operations. Later he was deployed to Afghanistan as First Command Major.
He compared his experience to those who fought in WWI and WWII battles. “They sustained a 66 percent casualty rate. We drew strength from them. Many died to keep our country free.”
He reminded those there that letters from home are read at least “100 times and those ziploc baggies are full of pictures and smiling faces. When we look at those pictures, we start to realize there’s a family that will know their Marine is never coming home alive. It is not just a statistic, but a name attached to a family.”
It was part of SGM Converse’s job to go to those families and tell them. He spoke of one experience that took him to the Honduras to relate the death of a fellow Marine, staff member and friend. He was able to put together a military funeral with full honors. Three embassies participated and “It all came together,” he said. A flag was presented to the soldier’s wife “on behalf of our great nation, and the thought of a young boy left behind growing up without a father will forever remain in my heart.”
Converse concluded the ceremony with a poem he read about “The Gold Star Children.”
“Today we are at war with ourselves. We don’t talk to each other. There is crisis now on our border. People want to come here. People want to wait in line, and there’s a line to get here. But you don’t see a line waiting to go. This is an amazing place, a beautiful country. Enjoy the prosperity, and the promise.”
A salute and benediction were given to finish the Memorial Day Ceremony and the Muncy American Legion and the Muncy VFW provided refreshments.