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Speaker touches on history of the Stars & Stripes at Belmont's Memorial Day ceremony

Lt. Col. Kurt Webber was the keynote speaker during Memorial Day ceremonies in Belmont on Monday, addressing the noble sacrifices of those who serve their communities and their nation. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
May 31, 2017
BELMONT — Memorial Day in Belmont was a solemn occasion when all who gave their lives for a noble cause were honored in a speech by keynote speaker, retired U.S Army Lt. Col. Kurt Webber, while the meaning of the American flag was addressed by Charles Kilborn American Legion Post 58 Commander Rich Stanley.

The ceremonies began with a parade along Main Street, led by members of the Belmont Police Department Honor Guard. Once the assembly arrived at the monument on Church Street, Legion members Woody Fogg and Howard Brown dipped the American flag then returned it to full mast. The flag raising was then followed by the Belmont High School Band's performance of "The Star Spangled Banner."

Commander Stanley spoke to the crowd about some of the history of the American flag and the meaning of its stars and stripes. In 1776, he said, Betsy Ross was asked to follow a sketch that was drawn by General George Washington, and from that created the very first American flag.

Adopted in 1777 as the nation's official flag, Stanley said the 13 stars presented on the flag at that time represented the 13 original colonies. The white strips stood for purity and innocence, the red for heartiness and valor, and the field of blue behind the stars represented the president, which at that time was Washington.

"The red is significant to me though," Stanley said, "as I believe it also represents the blood of those people who (died for our freedoms)."

He then called attention to the names etched on the monument behind him and asked everyone to remember that those were more than names. They were real people from the town who fought for the country they loved and never came home.

Webber, an Iraqi War veteran, took on the topic of heroes and he called attention to the men and women in uniform, whether it be police, fire, or military. He pronounced them all to be noble and heroic people, each working around the clock to protect the citizens of the United States both at home and abroad.

War, Webber said, is a horrible thing, but he was grateful for those Americans who stand up to fight for what they believe in, one of the hardest sacrifices a person can make.

In the course of the battles he's witnessed however, Webber said he personally saw many acts of kindness, humanity and personal sacrifice; acts that are seldom shown in the media. Among them were things such as U.S. soldiers handing out candy to young children, providing medical assistance to Iraqi residents and even pitching in to rebuild schools in their communities.

"I was constantly impressed by not only their courage, but their kindness and decency to the Iraqi people. War brings out both kindness and courage," Webber said. "They all make personal sacrifices for the common good."

Also taking part this year were younger citizens of the Belmont community. Members of Boy Scout Troop 65 laid a wreath in front of the monument while representatives of Girl Scout Troop 21532, Brownies and Daisy Troop 12117 participated once again by casting flowers into the Tioga River to honor all who were lost at sea.

Former Post 58 Commander Robert Stevens read the names of veterans from the area who died in the past year as Steve Bracey rang a memorial bell to honor their life and service to the nation. BHS trumpet soloist Cody York, with H. Lavallee providing the "Echo" response, then performed "Taps."

The ceremonies concluded with the community joining together in the singing of "God Bless America," led by Grace Shaw.

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