G-A community remembers Ben Bitner on Memorial Day

PAT FRIDGEN
Col. Joseph Feliciano honored MSgt. Benjamin F. Bitner and others servicemen and women during the Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning. He is surrounded by Bitner’s parents Roger and Beverly Bitner, his son Rogue Bitner, mayor Robert Eberly and Margo Blattenberger.

The meaning of Memorial Day rang true as the Greencastle community remembered Master Sgt. Benjamin Franklin Bitner during ceremonies at Cedar Hill Cemetery. A large crowd gathered May 30 in the scorching heat to pay tribute to a native son and others who perished in service to their country.

Bitner, 37, was killed in action April 23 in Afghanistan. His formal photograph was placed in front of the speaker's podium at Veterans Memorial Rostrum, and his parents, Roger and Bev Bitner of Greencastle, and his son Rogue of Jackson Springs, N.C., were guests of honor.

Col. Joseph R. Feliciano, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, quoted President John F. Kennedy. "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers."

The national holiday was one in which to remember the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, "ordinary men and women who died while in military service, who answered the call to duty, upon whose legacy and shoulders I stand today."

Feliciano mentioned by name Bitner and the members of the military who died last week on the war front.

"These servicemen declared 'Not on my watch'. They stood the post and paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Arlington National Cemetery and countless cemeteries around the world were reminders that freedom had a cost, he continued. He asked the audience to also remember the missing, whom the country was determined to find and repatriate. At the present, Iraq was heading toward a more stable democracy, and with the help of coalition partners, Afghanistan was becoming more secure. But the United States had to prepare for the challenges ahead.

"Terror will not rest, violence will not sleep, evil will not die. If we honor and remember those who have served, compassion will prevail, justice will triumph and freedom will reign."

Greencastle mayor Robert Eberly extended sympathies to Bitner's family on behalf of the community. "We are indeed proud of Ben. He diligently and proudly served his country, and laid down his life. To honor him, may we always oppose any government that would take away the rights and privileges he and others gave their lives to preserve."

Participants in the program included Tony Everetts, commander of American Legion Post 373; Duane Schroyer, commander of VFW Post 6319; Pastor Jeff Ehko, Cornerstone Bible Church; Donna Kulpak, president of the Legion Auxiliary; Pat Meyers, president of the VFW Auxiliary; Greencastle-Antrim High School Marching Band; Margo Blattenberger, Greencastle-Antrim Middle School student who sang the national anthem; Boy Scout Troop 99, and Cub Scout Pack 13.

Flags and patriotic clothing complemented the purpose and solemnity of Memorial Day observances. Greencastle honored its war dead May 30 at Cedar Hill Cemetery.