Wall memorializes Bitner’s service and sacrifice

PAT FRIDGEN
The MSG Benjamin F. Bitner Memorial Wall was unveiled Monday at noon in the Greencastle VFW. Bitner was killed in Afghanistan April 23, 2011. Pictured are Rep. Todd Rock, Bitner's parents, Roger and Bev Bitner, and his son Rogue, 9. He is also survived by his wife April and son Gunnar.

A wall was dedicated in memory of Master Sgt. Benjamin F. Bitner during Memorial Day ceremonies in Greencastle. A section of VFW Post 6319 was set aside for Greencastle son Ben Bitner, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan on April 23, 2011.

"He was the consummate soldier's soldier," said VFW Post commander Duane Schroyer. Two etchings in the display were created as memorials by members of Bitner's unit at Bagram Air Field. The background is camouflage netting used by the military to protect equipment from being seen by bombers.

The activities of Monday, May 28, were orchestrated by the VFW and American Legion Post 373. After the parade, people gathered at Cedar Hill Cemetery for speeches in honor of American men and women who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

Army Major Kyle Davis, a 1995 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School, was the featured speaker. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 2000. Now 33, he has served in Iraq and Korea, and will return to Baghdad in December as Assistant Army Attache' at the U.S. Embassy. He and his family make their home in Mount Vernon, Va.

Davis traced the history of Memorial Day, but expected it meant something different to everyone. To him, it was a classmate killed on a training flight in Korea, and four others killed in Iraqi ambushes, bombs detonated at truck checkpoints, or exploding in the roadside.

"These memories are my Memorial Day," he said. "What makes it personal for you?"

And despite the country's long record of war in the Middle East, he concluded, "Be grateful there are still people willing to make that ultimate sacrifice."

Following a 21-gun salute and Taps, Schroyer spoke. "God bless the US. Because of its soldiers, it is still the land of the free and the home of the brave."

State Rep. Todd Rock paid tribute to three Franklin County residents who had lost their lives in the war: Sgt. Edward Shaffer of Mont Alto, Staff Sgt. Richard Tieman of Waynesboro, and Bitner of Greencastle. Sections of state roads had been or would be dedicated to each of them, as memorial highways.

"Hopefully, anyone passing by will remember what these young men fought for and be proud to be called Americans," he said.