Franklin Township gathered Saturday to pay tribute to residents lost in active duty.
“As we preserve time each year to pause and remember, we are demonstrating to our children how to love our nation, remember our beginnings, and find hope for tomorrow,” said Jennifer Eckhart, pastor at Blue Mountain Community Church, a former student at Franklin Elementary School, and a co-chairperson of Franklin Township’s annual Killed In Action program.
The service is held annually to remember the 29 Franklin residents who died in military service.
The program was first started in 1988 by former Franklin Elementary teacher, Larry Hill and his students. The monument was originally built at Franklin Elementary school.
When the school closed, the monument was disassembled and rebuilt at the Phifer’s Ice Dam Pavilion.
“I love how as a community, we posses a deep desire to remember those who have gone before us in the pursuit of a great nation, Eckhart said. “Passing the torch to the next generation of leaders begins with teach our children excellent foundational values. Reminding our children from where we came and encouraging them to dream about the future, what it could hold, will stir their hearts to cherish our nation’s heritage and be thankful for those who died so that we could live.”
Barb Snowberger, former kindergarten teacher at Franklin, introduced the guest speaker; one of her former students, 1st Lieutenant Larry E. Ahner, a veteran of the war in Iraq.
“We’re very fortunate to live in a very beautiful area of northeast Pennsylvania, rich in history, patriotism, natural beauty, and a great history of military service in all conflicts,” Ahner said.
“I’m deeply honored to stand here with you, commemorating the sacrifice of those military men and women, who have laid down their lives in service to this great nation.”
“The men and women who have given their lives in service to this nation are indisputably heroes. When their country called, they answered and took it upon him or herself to serve faithfully to their fullest.”
Olivia Sheckler, who spoke on behalf of the former students at Franklin, gave an emotional speech honoring the soldiers who lost their lives in war, remembering members of her family who served in various wars, and how her life would be different had they not served their country.
“All servicemen and women have to face reality that they might not come home; but, these men made the ultimate sacrifice,” Sheckler said, with tears in her eyes. “They left behind family and friends to carry on their memories. They left us with a sense of pride in their services and sacrifice. At their last moments, we know they died as heroes for our country.”
Cindy Sabol, former first grade teacher at Franklin for 36 years, shared her thoughts on patriotism.
“My parents were first generation Americans. My Dad’s family was from Poland, my Mom’s was from Slovakia. My Polish grandfather bought a farm in 1924, where I have lived all my life, and still live. It’s going to be 100 years old next year. In doing research, we found that that piece of land, originally 100 acres, was first given to a soldier, whose last name was Rex, for fighting in the Revolutionary War. It was sold to someone else, who then sold it to my grandfather.”
She spoke of her various family members who served in the military. One of her mother’s brothers retired from the Navy and worked in the Pentagon. He retired one month before the plane went through the Pentagon, through the very door he entered every day.
The program included a medley of military songs, honoring the various branches of the military. Then the Honor Roll of the War Dead was read, giving the names of the 29 soldiers whose names are on the memorial. Student Koy Wentz played a drum beat before each name was read. As each name was remembered, a rose was placed at the memorial.
Members of the Lehighton UVO provided an honor guard salute, and student Isabelle Cressley played taps.
Olivia Sheckler delivered an emotional speech honoring the military who died in action at the 34th Annual Killed In Action service at Phifer’s Ice Dam, Franklin Township. JAMES LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Franklin Township residents, including former students and faculty from the former Franklin Elementary School, attend the 34th annual Killed In Action program at the Monument at the Phifer’s Ice Dam Pavilion.