A Veterans Memorial dedication and Flag Day ceremony were held at American Legion Park in Hollidaysburg, Pa., on Flag Day, June 14, 2016. Over 300 persons with several local dignitaries and the town mayor were there to witness the dedication of the memorial and flag retirement ceremony. Local television stations and newspapers covered the event as well. The ceremony was the culmination of an Eagle Scout project started over two years earlier, sponsored by American Legion Post 516 in Hollidaysburg. The ceremony was a moving tribute to the veterans of the community and included the singing of the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, an invocation and blessing of the memorial, the Eagle Scout project presentation, the Veterans Memorial dedication, remarks by Lt. Gen. Harry “Ed” Soyster, former commander of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Eagle Scout, the reading of the poem “Old Glory,” a funeral fire tribute and the retirement of two flags followed by Taps.
The Eagle Scout candidate responsible for the memorial is Joshua Dunkle from Boy Scout Troop 31 in Duncansville, Pa. Joshua raised over $20,000 in cash donations, materials and work in-kind from local contractors to fund and complete his project. He is 16 and will be a junior at Hollidaysburg Area High School this coming fall. Along with Scouting, Josh plays varsity football and is also on the varsity track & field team. He is the son of Sam and Cindy Dunkle, both Army veterans and officers at American Legion Post 516, serving as post commander and post chaplain respectively. The Dunkle family resides in Hollidaysburg.
In his speech during the ceremony, Joshua described the project and its purpose: “My project was to replace the existing flagpole and to establish a veterans memorial here at American Legion Park, Hollidaysburg, Pa., for all the veterans of our community. From this time forward, I request this memorial be known as the Veterans Memorial at American Legion Park.” He then asked all the veterans in attendance to please stand or raise their hand to be recognized, and thanked them for their service and then led the crowd in a round of applause. He went on to convey why he selected the project, stating: “I selected this project for several reasons. First, I wanted to pay tribute to all the veterans who have served our great country – especially for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice with giving their lives. Secondly, I come from a military family with both my parents serving 20-plus years as officers in the Army and my great-grandfather serving as an Army pilot in World War I. My country and the veterans who served their country mean a great deal to me. Furthermore, the traffic circle and flagpole were in a poor state of repair and needed refurbishment. My goal was to create a memorial to veterans that would last for decades to come and allow for public gatherings and official ceremonies like this one. I believe we’ve accomplished my goal and I’d like to thank all my sponsors who made it possible. Most of all, I’m proud to be responsible for this Veterans Memorial in my hometown. I think my Pap Frank Dunkle would be proud of what we accomplished.”
He then thanked Joe Dodson, the former American Legion post commander who approved and sponsored his Eagle Scout project, and stated that he appreciated that he shared his vision for the Veterans Memorial and improving the park for the community. As a point of reference, he removed the overgrown shrubs and trees and replaced them with a hard concrete patio with a knee-high brick wall with limestone capstone. Embedded in the wall facing the flagpole are plaques of the Armed Services: the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, along with the American Legion and dedication plaques. He incorporated a compass rose in the memorial, as a compass is used by Scouts and soldiers alike to find direction and chart a course. To commemorate this day he placed a time capsule contained within the wall which holds our flag, the ceremony’s program, a 2016 one-dollar bill, a photo of Troop 31 Scouts placing flags on the graves for Memorial Day, a Scout patch, a photo of Sgt. Lightner, an American Legion coin, and his mom’s National Defense Service Medal. The centerpiece of the memorial is a large granite rock with a bronze “Battlefield Cross" statue honoring a fallen soldier. Joshua took a few minutes to describe the statue and the meaning behind it. He opined: “The statue is a replica of the makeshift memorials used by the soldiers on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to honor the “fallen” during memorial ceremonies held in the field. The statue contains the fallen soldier’s helmet, rifle, boots and dog tags. Of note, the dog tags displayed on the statue today are a replica of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Lightner, who was killed in Iraq fighting in the Global War on Terrorism on Oct. 27, 2005. Lightner was a native son of Hollidaysburg and served his nation proudly. His dog tags will forever be a part of this memorial and serve as a tribute to his service to our nation.” Joshua recognized Lightner’s Gold Star Mother, Judy Lightner, along with several family members. Sam Dunkle, presented Mrs. Lightner with a Gold Star Banner on behalf of The American Legion and a grateful nation. Those in attendance gave a fitting round of applause to Mrs. Lightner for her loss.
Afterwards, a detail of Boy Scouts from Troop 31 marched to the flagpole and lowered the flag and folded it 13 times, with the meaning of each fold being read by the narrator. Upon completion, Scout Dunkle held the flag facing the audience. On a table to the front was another flag that had been disassembled stripe by stripe from the union, but laid in a manner that it appeared to be together. A fire pit had been placed to the front right of the statue with a “funeral fire” burning. A young Boy Scout marched over to the table and secured the bottom stripe and marched to the funeral fire. He then faced the audience and stated: “Delaware 1787!” This was the year that Delaware adopted the Constitution, thereby serving as the first state within the union. The Boy Scout then placed the stripe in the fire. Twelve Boy Scouts and Legionnaires followed in the same manner for each of the 13 original colonies. Gen. Ed Soyster had the honor of placing the “union” in the fire and stated that the union represents all 50 states of the United States. Scout Dunkle then marched to the fire and placed the flag taken from the pole in the fire stating, “the flag of our great nation” and then saluted. Taps was played by a lone trumpeter and honors rendered. Scout Dunkle then secured the new flag from Mrs. Lightner and a detail of Scouts returned to the pole and raised the new colors. The ceremony was concluded with a benediction with a reception following in the American Legion social hall. Several members of the community took time after the ceremony to thank Josh for his efforts on his project and his support to veterans.
This event is an example of how The American Legion is serving the community and working with the Boy Scouts to develop our leaders of tomorrow. Post 516 is very proud of Joshua Dunkle’s accomplishment and the Veterans Memorial at the American Legion Park.The post invites you to visit the memorial if your travels find you in Central Pennsylvania. “For God and Country!”