PICTURE ROCKS - Morning rainfall held off just long enough to dedicate a veterans memorial and park here Saturday, so families and friends could honor their loved ones who served in the U.S. armed forces.
The memorial at corner of Main Street and Nunn Lane in the borough was years in the making, but finally came to reality thanks to the many donors, supporters and work of the Veterans Memorial Park of Picture Rocks board of directors, said Eugene R. Otterbein Sr., the organization's president, borough council president and retired U.S. Air Force senior master sergeant.
"We hope this is a new page in the history of Picture Rocks," he said at the Picture Rocks Baptist Church on Elm Street to a standing-room-only crowd inside the sanctuary before people made their way to the monument's dedication.
Above, board members of the Veterans Memorial Park of Picture Rocks lay a memorial wreath by a new monument that was dedicated Saturday.
During the opening portion of the event at the church, the Montoursville High School chorus sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The Rev. Bert Kozen, pastor at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Bastress, and colonel who serves as a brigade chaplain in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, gave the invocation.
Kozen said veterans need to be remembered for the hardships they endured - whether overseas or not - and for their example of service by paying the ultimate price with their lives.
"It is our duty to care for them, as they cared for us," said Raymond Huff, former Montoursville High School principal and retired U.S. Air Force major, who gave the keynote address.
He said the hundreds of bricks that line the new park with inscriptions of veterans' service is more than just that.
"For some of us, those are numbers. For some of us, those are names and faces," Huff said.
He noted that military service is dwindling in the ranks of those who have been elected to Congress. According to a 2012 report from USA Today, 80 percent of federal legislators had military experience in 1977. That number dropped to just 19 percent in 2031.
"I strongly believe that we need to have a two-year service commitment after high school," said Huff.
"I also think people in power would think twice" about deciding to put those in the military in harm's way.
At the memorial park, members of the Williamsport Detachment of the Marine Corps League presented the colors, while a rifle salute and taps was presented by members of American Legion Post 35, Hughesville.
Otterbein thanked the veterans park board members for their work, but said the hard part was selecting a final design for the monument. In the end, he said, it was local veterans that made the call for a concept from Lycoming Career & Technology Center students Patrick J. Maggs and Jared D. Sones.
"What you see down at the base of this monument is what the veterans of Picture Rocks wanted to see," Otterbein said. "Today, we dedicate this monument to all veterans."