Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship
Sheila Berg remembers the protocol with a precision reserved for those of the military.
Berg, of Weisenberg Township, was serving in the Air Force stationed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware during Operation Iraqi Freedom. War conditions dictated that Berg remain on the base. When fallen troops arrived from overseas service members would stop what they were doing and, often, salute, especially if near the base mortuary.
"It was very tough," Berg said, who retired in 2009, six months shy of 30 years in the military. "We had bodies coming back at all different hours of the day. If we were on the flight line or near it [we would] stop and form a line of respect."
Berg, now president of United Veterans of Wars in Allentown, looked back on her experiences moments after the annual Veterans Appreciation Sunday at Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church, Salisbury Township, May 26. Berg attended the event for the first time and came with her sister-in-law Donna Hinkle, of Northampton.
"We have a camaraderie," Berg said of her fellow veterans. "No matter the branch of service or how long you served. We have all that in common. I'm very glad I served."
Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship began its annual service at least 15 years ago, said Jay Reinhard, of Wescosville, business administrator for the church. He has been at the church 29 years.
"We try to honor the [veterans] the best way we know how just to say thank you," Reinhard said, noting that as many as 200 veterans were among those attending the service including a 99-year-old veteran, who saw five battles in World War II and a young reservist in uniform set to deploy later this year. Both men were acknowledged during the service.
The event included patriotic hymns, a salute to the armed forces during which the songs of each branch of the U.S. military were performed by the choir and orchestra, a video greeting from Staff Sgt. Robert Munden, a chaplain assistant, serving in Bagram, Afghanistan, and a short speech by Lauren Munden, emphasizing the importance of support for families of those who serve. The husband and wife are members of the church.
Veterans were given small backpacks filled with thank you gifts at a reception after the service. The sanctuary and balcony at the church were filled with people during the event.
"You guys do it with class," retired Rear Admiral R. Timothy Ziemer, U.S. Navy, said. Ziemer, the current U.S. Global Malaria coordinator, addressed the crowd as the keynote speaker. Noting his wife is a native of Pennsylvania, Ziemer continued, "I feel as though I'm in real America."
Ziemer, whose resume includes service in Vietnam and as executive director of World Relief, was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the President's Malaria Initiative to target the disease in Africa. Ziemer's parents served as missionaries in Vietnam where Ziemer lived until returning to the United States for college.
While Ziemer was in school his father was killed in Vietnam and his mother was badly injured while there. Ziemer later returned to serve in Vietnam, flying more than 550 combat missions.
"It is a day for solemn reflection, to pause and just reflect on the sacrifices given for our country," Ziemer said of Memorial Day.
Norman Krobath, of Allentown, viewed his service in the same spirit as part of the Howard L. Peter Post #576 of the American Legion. Like Ziemer, Krobath was in Vietnam, serving in the U.S. Army, 101st Airborne. This was Krobath's first year participating in the honor guard for Post #576 and attending the Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship annual event. Krobath pledged to himself to get involved with the American Legion when he retired, however, an injury brought him out of the work force sooner than expected, he said. Krobath credited Maurice Moore, of Allentown, the chaplain of Post #576, with getting him involved. Moore, Krobath said, touched his heart with his appeal to join the honor guard.
"We pay tribute to any veteran that requests us," Krobath said.
Lawrence Plunkett, of Whitehall, a Navy veteran of Vietnam, echoed Krobath, noting the honor guard attended more than 140 funerals in 2012 for members and nonmembers of the American Legion. Funeral homes and families of veterans may request the honor guard to attend a funeral service, said Plunkett.
"There is only one day dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of war," said David Tress, Capt. U.S. Air Force, separated, in his opening remarks to those attending the annual veterans appreciation event at the church. "To our veterans I want to say how proud I am of each and every one of you."