Lancaster County’s Veterans Day event, held Friday morning, gave all attending a powerful reminder about the value of military personnel and their service.
“We can read history books or watch the History Channel, but we know so little about those stories of what our veterans actually went through,” said Howard Kramer, the featured speaker.
Kramer is the co-founder of Listrak, a digital email marketing company in Lititz. After graduating from Eastern Lebanon High School in 1966, Kramer went into basic training and was deployed to Vietnam in July 1968.
“Vietnam was a real test of my spirit and discipline,” Kramer said. “… I was simply doing the best job I could.”
“Almost all of us ended up in the military,” he said of growing up in Schaefferstown, where service was a rite of passage.
Family support was crucial during his time overseas he said.
“Today’s warriors are faced with even more hardships than we went through,” he said.
Suicide rates for veterans are nearly 60% higher than for their non-veteran counterparts. Thousands of veterans take their own lives each year.
“We need to eliminate the epidemic of veteran suicide,” he said.
Friday’s ceremony took place at the County Government Center on North Queen Street. The McCaskey High School drumline played the crowd in and out of the event.
Kramer invited the audience to the upcoming countywide Veterans Day celebration, planned at 2 p.m. Sunday at Veterans Honor Park of Lancaster County in Lititz.
All three county commissioners are military veterans.
“I got (a lot) out of it,” Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said of his 22 years of active and reserve service in the U.S. Navy, citing skills, humility, and a sense of pride. He is a proponent of national service, he said.
Commissioner John Trescot served 12 years in the U.S. Army reserves, continuing a family tradition of military service that includes his grandfather, father and sister.
“We always had that involvement in our family,” he said. “We have the need for people to be involved. … You’re part of something big.”
Commissioner Josh Parsons served in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer. He touched on Lancaster County’s proud military history — noting, among others, Lancaster native Gen. John Reynolds, an admired Civil War commander who died in combat on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Parsons thanked everyone for attending and participating: “We appreciate everyone who makes this event special,” he said.