The world will little remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here," President Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address.
Panther Valley Superintendent Robert Mauro, a retired Navy captain who fought in the brown waters of Vietnam's Mekong Delta, sounded the same theme Sunday as keynote speaker at a memorial ceremony in Coaldale.
Although history probably will forget that 150 residents and veterans turned out on the battleship gray day, Mauro said, it's important that the event occurred.
"Today we honor those individuals who gave the full measure of devotion as members of the U.S. Armed Forces," Mauro said. "It's been my privilege to learn in recent years those sacrifices made by service personnel and their families from the Panther Valley and the entire coal region. Those sacrifices have been truly extraordinary."
Mauro spoke near the Seek Veterans Honor Roll at Route 209 and Bull Run Road. The event was organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6982 and the American Legion Post 170, as it has been for half a century. Schuylkill County Vietnam veterans and other civic and veterans organizations also helped set up the event.
The Panther Valley High School ROTC's rifle squad saluted, and taps was played after a reading of the names of veterans with Coaldale ties who had died since last Memorial Day.
"Pray for those who have served and passed on. They are your brothers and sisters in freedom," Coaldale Mayor Claire Remington said. "And pray also for those who still serve so they may come home safely. They serve so you might live in freedom. Never forget that."
Remington criticized those in town for no longer displaying Old Glory or yellow ribbons, wondering aloud whether the events of Sept. 11 already have been forgotten.
Mauro remembered the soldiers with whom he fought in the jungles and marshes of Vietnam, naming several Americans who died, including a 19-year-old seaman who had been a close friend.
"Let's try to understand the courage they demonstrated," Mauro said, dressed in his formal Navy whites. "The need for courage, not only for service personnel but for every citizen in our great republic, is greater now than ever before."
Mauro called the United States a beacon of freedom and decency, the epitome of humanity in the world today. And he called upon those listening to do right in their lives -- however difficult.
"I ask you, I beseech you, that " we as adults set examples for our children, that we as people in prominent public positions set an example ", and [that] we as common citizens in this great republic recognize that only the strong can be free," Mauro said. "Only as we teach our children and others can we move forward as we have in the past. This country has a wonderful past, I believe the best is yet to come