homepage logo

Citizens ‘owe a debt of gratitude’

By Staff | May 28, 2014

Participants at the 2014 Memorial Day Service at Hughesville's Pleasant Hill cemetery included (front left to right): Rev. Ronald Montgomery, Colonel Bert S. Kozen, Doris Babb. (Rear): Kade Heckel, Emilie Detweiler and Commander Abe Pittenger.   

HUGHESVILLE – “We owe a debt of gratitude, this nation exists because of sacrifice,” said Col. Bert S. Kozen during the Memorial Day service at Pleasant Hill Cemetery on Monday, May 26.

The speakers ‘Moments of Remembrance’ focused on a WWII event when frigid ocean waters swallowed four chaplains after their ship was torpedoed while on route from New York to Greenland.

On January 23, 1943, the Dorchester, built to accomodate 314 passengers, had 900 soldiers on board. After being hit, the army chaplains took charge of the pandemonium and gave up their floatation devices when it was discovered the ship was short of life jackets.

One survivor reported that, “As I swam away, I looked back. The flares lit up the sky and the last thing I saw were the chaplains standing on deck hand in hand praying for us in languages including Hebrew and Spanish.”

At that time, the heroisum of the foursome didn’t meet the criteria for receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. Due to this pivotal event, congress altered requirements with medals awarded posthumously to the four.

Kozen, who’d served in Bosnia and Kosovo, is State Chaplain for the Joint Forces Headquarters of the PA National Guard. He is also pastor of parishes at Immaculate Conception in Williamsport and St. Luke’s at Jersey Shore, PA.

The speaker’s parting words to the audience stated, “I encourage you to take time today to visit a veteran’s grave and remember all who gave their lives in wartime.”

During the service, an empty chair with the motto “You are not forgotten,” was a poignant reminder of missing POW/MIA’s.

The program was conducted by Abe Pittenger, Commander of Glenn Sharrow American Legion Post #35. Seargant of Arms Ralph Marks from Hughesville placed a wreath, called for a gun salute and the retiring of colors.

Annually, an outstanding eighth grade boy and girl recite “The Gettysburg Address” and “In Flanders Field.” This year students were Emilie Detweiler, daughter of Ellen and Troy Detweiler, and Kade Heckel, son of Carole and Mark Heckel. Auxiliary President Doris Babb presented the students with an award.

The invocation and benediction was offered by the Rev. Ronald Montgomery, Pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church at Gordner’s Grove, Unityville, PA. According to the pastor, he and classmate Eleanor Snyder participated in the 1956 program as boy and girl of the year.

‘Taps’ was played by Hughesville High School band trumpeters Kate Rodrigues and Kade Heckel. Under the direction of drum major Rilynn Temple, the musicians provided several patrotic selections.