Color guards, military veterans marching in step, patriotic music by Westerville South High School's band and ceremonies to honor war dead are all part of American Legion Post 171's annual Memorial Day parade and observance in Westerville set for Monday morning, May 26.
"I prefer to call it a Memorial March," said Steve Romeo, commander of Post 171, "because it's not about celebration or another holiday, or a day off from work. It's about us solemnly honoring members of the military who gave their lives in all our country's wars, for the sake of our freedom and our way of life."
The featured speaker during post-march ceremonies at Otterbein Cemetery will be Ohio's director of Veterans Affairs, Tim Gorrell, himself a military veteran. His address will follow the playing of the National Anthem by Westerville South's band, a 21-gun salute by Post 171's firing squad, and the playing of Taps by two buglers from the band.
The parade, led by former post Cmdr. Mike Etling, will step off at 9:45 a.m. from the corner of College Avenue and State Street, Romeo said. Participants will march south to the old National Guard Armory and pause for a wreath-laying at the Westerville Veterans Memorial by Etling, an Army veteran of the Vietnam era, and Bob Arn, a World War II Air Corps pilot.
The march then proceeds to Bishop Street, turns west to Knox, then north to Otterbein Cemetery.
All military veterans are invited to join in the march, Romeo said. They should wear respectful clothing or, preferably, their old service uniforms. Active members of the military are also welcome to march.
Marching units will include honor guards from American Legion Post 171, the post's Ladies Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7883, and the Westerville Divisions of Police and Fire. Ceremonies at Otterbein Cemetery will start about 10:15 and should conclude by 10:45 a.m.
A contingent consisting of Post 171's firing squad and honor guard and the two buglers will depart to assist with Memorial Day commemorations at Blendon Cemetery, and conduct brief services at Pioneer and Northlawn cemeteries. These should be over by noon.
Members of the Legion's Young-Budd Post 171 have marched on Memorial Day since the end of the Great War, now called World War I. The post sponsors the parade each year.
The township's Memorial Day ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. May 26 at Blendon Central Cemetery, 6330 S. Hempstead Road.
Township Trustee Chairwoman Jan Heichel will emcee the ceremony.
Irwin Kuhns, a Navy veteran of combat in the Pacific in World War II, will be the guest speaker.
The Rev. Harold Steindam, retired pastor of the Westerville Community United Church of Christ, will give the benediction.
Field of Heroes
The Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club will stage its sixth annual Field of Heroes tribute over Memorial Day weekend Friday-Monday, May 23-26, at the Westerville Sports Complex, 325 S. Cleveland Ave.
Located at the southwest corner of Cleveland Avenue and County Line Road -- across the street from the Westerville Community Center -- the Field of Heroes display will include more than 3,000 U.S. flags on 8-foot white poles, with a number of ceremonies to honor U.S. war dead staged throughout the weekend.
This year will include a special tribute to all public safety personnel each day.
The Field of Heroes opens at 1 p.m. Friday, May 23. A closing ceremony will be held at 12:30 p.m. Monday, May 26. Visit fieldofheroes.org for additional information.