Two Memorial Day ceremonies in Carlisle Monday had a single aim.
“All Americans who have known the loss and sadness of war, whether recently or long ago, can know this: The person they love and miss is honored and remembered by the United States of America,” former Carlisle Mayor Kirk Wilson said.
Wilson served as the master of ceremonies for a service at Veterans’ Memorial Courtyard that was held following Carlisle’s Memorial Day parade in the morning.
Sponsored by the Joint Veterans Council of Carlisle, the service featured speaker Skip Ebert, who acknowledged those who lost a loved one in the line of duty, saying that no words of condolence can ever begin to adequately console a survivor’s grief.
“On every last Monday in May, we find ourselves reflecting on those men and women who bravely risk their lives and limbs in the face of danger. We remember those who left the comforts of home to fight for us and our freedom, but they never returned,” Ebert said.
He told the story of a high school classmate, Frank Jesse Wolf, who finished his tour before his 21st birthday. Wolf “came from a poor farm outside of a little, bitty town called Wescosville.” The two rode the bus together and were both members of the wrestling team before they graduated from high school in 1966.
Ebert went to The Citadel with an Army scholarship. Wolf went back to the farm to work with his family. Within a year, he was drafted into the Army and eventually was assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
Wolf arrived in Vietnam on Nov. 5, 1967, and was killed in battle within four months on Feb. 24, 1968, Ebert said in a voice choked with emotion.
“Frank was just a poor boy who did his duty and was never going to see the American dream,” he said.
Wolf, like the majority of the more than 1 million who have died in America’s wars, were everyday heroes who left unfillable holes in families and communities across the country, Ebert said. He urged those attending to remember their sacrifice.
“As long as we continue to honor them with our actions and remember their sacrifices, they will never be forgotten,” he said.
Across town a few hours later, the Haines-Stackfield American Legion and the Borough of Carlisle also remembered the lives lost through the years.
“As we remember them today, we remember their sacrifices. We thank God for their precious gift,” said Frank Jackson, who hosted the noon ceremony at Memorial Park.
Remembering the fallen played a role in the Army War College Class of 2019 decision to partner with the borough to support the restoration of Lincoln Cemetery.
In the early 1970s, tombstones were removed from the cemetery to make way for a passive recreation area next to what became Memorial Park.
Lt. Col. La Fran Marks said his class, like many before, wanted to present a token of appreciation to the school before graduation. Usually, these gifts are commissioned prints or sculptures, but the students decided to highlight the historical connections of the community to the War College.
The class became part of a working group that included representatives from the borough, War College, Cumberland County Historical Society and descendants of those buried at the cemetery to determine what type of memorial would be appropriate. Their work led to the installation of an archway between the cemetery and the basketball courts.
“This effort allowed us to partner with the borough and to recognize the 30-plus U.S. Colored Troops that are buried here as well as the unknown number of civilians, community members, that are buried in the cemetery,” Marks said.
“What started as a project about an appropriate recognition for this sacred ground quickly expanded to include a new mission: looking more broadly at the history and future of the site and how the borough and community can continue this work that the class has started,” said Mayor Tim Scott in accepting the gift.
Scott invited anyone in the community to tell their stories or share their memories about the cemetery. The information will be presented at an event this year.
The dedication of the arch on Memorial Day brings to light the stories of those who were buried there, including veterans who served as Colored Troops during the Civil War.
The troops fought not only against the Confederates in the South, but also for those who were enslaved in the South while fighting those north of the Mason-Dixon Line who believed that separatism was appropriate and unequal treatment was OK, said retired Col. Sylvester Brown, the featured speaker at the service.
“With the gift given by the Army War College, you are atoning for many of those things that occurred in the past that may not seem right. You are stepping forward with a conscience first and then a courage,” he said.
Brown said the community needs examples of people coming together and of people understanding that past hurts do not have to continue into the future to further the work of reconciliation.
“When we come to this Memorial Day, we decide to honor all the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen and the Marines who have given their life that we might have a freedom to live together, to love together, to do many things together. Never to be separated, but always walk together arm in arm, hand in hand, all staying in step, one with another,” Brown said.