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Veterans Day recalls service, sacrifice and a desire for peace

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Above, local high school bands warmed the crowd up – WCHS and R-MA pictured, Skyline out of frame; below, as the WC Courthouse clock clicks toward 11 a.m., the R-MA Color Guard stands ready. See 10 more event photos at the end of story. Photos/Roger Bianchini

An impressive thing about Veterans Day services from year to year in Front Royal is the broad remembrance of its origin.  While 2017 veered from the norm of initiating that remembrance at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month minus one day due to that 11th day coming on Saturday, the emotions were no different.

If the public officials acknowledging our memory of personal sacrifice for a greater good change from year to year, the thought does not.  This year’s keynote speaker was Col. John C. Casserino of R-MA; John Kokernak acknowledged the POW’s and MIA’s; Front Royal’s incumbent Mayor Hollis Tharpe spoke; Haley Wills directed the E. Wilson Morrison Choir; R-MA provided the Color Guard; and the WCHS, Skyline and R-MA bands performed.

Other people and images remain constant from year to year – a Gold Star Mother Helen Seekford, bundled from the cold; chaplains asking for God’s blessing on those who have served and those who wait anxiously for their return; and the veterans themselves who’s crisp salutes and erect posture recall the duty and discipline of their service.

This year Shelley Remillard of the Post 53 Ladies Auxiliary’s invocation asked, as others have in other years, for Divine countenance on his humble creatures gathered, to evolve beyond a need for war as a solution to human disagreement.

Each year that I hear that plea for peace I am reminded why we traditionally celebrate what is now known as Veteran’s Day at 11 a.m. on 11-11 each year.  One year after World War I ended on that 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, by Presidential Decree “Armistice Day” was created to recall the end of what was, perhaps naively at the time, thought by many to be the end of the “War That Would End All Wars”.

Why such a belief? – Because war, as brutal and far-reaching as it had been throughout recorded history, had never before seen such a face.  It was the face of modern technology – machine guns, tanks, airplanes and poison gas, meeting old-world fighting techniques of tightly-lined assaults into the teeth of enemy positions; a war where retreat was followed by the gas, the tanks, the bombs from the sky, and refuge was perilous at best.

The result was a carnage lasting just under five years that saw over 17 million killed, 7 million of those civilians; and another 20 million wounded across Europe.  Surely the human race had learned a lesson – that modern technology and war were incompatible with its survival.

But today, 99 years after the end of that war and 98 years after the first Armistice Day celebration, we know that hope appears to have been a futile one.  As Keynote Speakers often note of Veterans Day and its Armistice Day origin, “It celebrates peace; but as the ancient Greek philosophers said, ‘Only the dead see an end to war.’

And perhaps realization of that unhappy fact is why “Armistice Day” has evolved into “Veterans Day” since our collective experience is that 11-11-1918 did NOT mark the end of the war that would end all wars.

Giles B. Cook Legion Post 53 Commander Larry Funk again hosted our Front Royal-Warren County Veterans Day ceremony.  As Commander Funk has lamented in past ceremonies, many of our surviving veterans of the wars that have come since 1918 continue to deal with consequences of their wartime experiences.  He has urged us not to forget the large number of homeless veterans, as many as 67,000 have been cited on previous Veterans Days here; as well as unemployed vets.  Most tragically for those who have returned, Funk has pointed to as many as 20 veteran suicides a day in some yeas.

On a chill, windy but suddenly bright, sunny, mid-fall day in 2017, I found my thoughts drifting to the poem “In Flanders Fields”, referenced last year by then-Mayor Tim Darr.   The poem was written in May 1915 by Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.  Its impetus is believed to have been McCrae’s conduct of the field burial service for Lieutenant Alexis Helmer in the absence of a company chaplain:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is my recollection that Veterans Day 2014 was the first cited without a veteran of World War I still alive.  And as then, again on November 11, I mean 10th, 2017, I found myself humming as I was thinkin’ on all this.  The melody and lyrics of a mid-1960s song penned by 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Bob Dylan began drifting into my mind.  So as last year in Royal Examiner’s coverage of Veterans Day, I think these Nobel Prize-contributing lyrics appropriate to conclude our annual tribute to our military veterans, past, present and future, with a still hopeful nod to its forbearer, Armistice Day:

With God On Our Side

Oh my name it is nothin’, my age it means less
The country I come from, is called the Midwest
I’s taught and brought up there, the laws to abide
And the land that I live in, has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it, they tell it so well; The cavalries charged, the Indians fell; The cavalries charged, the Indians died; Oh the country was young then, with God on its side

The Spanish-American, War had its day
And the Civil War too, was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes, I’s made to memorize
With guns on their hands, and God on their side.

The First World War, boys, it came and it went; The reason for fighting, I never did get; But I learned to accept it, accept it with pride; For you don’t count the dead, when God’s on your side.

When the Second World War came to an end
We forgave the Germans, and then we were friends
Though they murdered six million, in the ovens they fried
The Germans now too, have God on their side.

I’ve learned to hate the Russians, all through my whole life
If another war comes, it’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them, to run and to hide
And accept it all bravely, with God on my side.

But now we got weapons, of chemical dust
If fire them we’re forced to, then fire them we must
One push of the button, and the shot’s worldwide
And you never ask questions, when God’s on your side.

In a many dark hour, I’ve been thinkin’ about this,
That Jesus Christ, was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you, you’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot, had God on his side

So now as I’m leavin’, I’m weary as hell
The confusion I’m feelin’, ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head, and fall to the floor
If God’s on our side, He’ll stop the next war.

A beautiful, if chilly fall Veterans Day in Front Royal

This 3-photo sequence shows the Colors being presented as Gold Star Mother Helen Seekford watches.

In the background, flags at half staff in front of the new Front Royal Town Hall as the ceremony begins; at center foreground, local Memorial Day event organizer Malcolm Barr Sr. brought his Husky Pola as a tribute to the role of the dogs of war.

Shelley Remillard of the Post 53 Ladies Auxiliary delivers the invocation.

The E. Wilson Morrison Choir under direction of Haley Wills.

Mayor Hollis Tharpe remembers the service and sacrifice of America’s soldiers.

With a remembrance of the nation’s POW’s and MIA’s in place on an empty chair in front of him, Giles B. Cook Post 53 Commander Larry Funk addresses the service of those who return and those who do not.

Veterans Randy Vaughan, left, and Danny Whitsell were among those to enjoy a post-ceremony luncheon at the Legion Post 53 headquarters following the 2017 Veterans Day ceremony. (We’d like to thank Post 53’s ‘Buster’ Ramos for his help in assembling information on this year’s event)

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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for August 3-7, 2020

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The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.

*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.

INTERSTATE 66
Mile marker 1 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for maintenance of various bridges, Sunday through Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. through August 7.

INTERSTATE 81
No lane closures reported.

PRIMARY ROADS
*NEW* Mile marker 0 to 7, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign installations at various locations, Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

SECONDARY ROADS
*NEW* Route 658 (Rockland Road) – Flagger traffic control for soil and rock testing between Route 620 (Bennys Beach Road) and Kelley Drive, August 3-14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Vegetation management may take place district wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.

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Girl of Destiny 2020 Awards – A celebration of leadership, service, and empowerment

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This weekend Reaching Out Now held the Girl of Destiny Luau Awards Ceremony. The girls and their families gathered to celebrate, enjoy delicious food by Chef Devin Smith, and wish the graduating 8th graders good luck as they move into leadership roles in 9th grade! There were several tears shed when remembering how far the girls have come.

Watch this video to hear some of the kind words shared by Samantha Barber (Founder and President) and Marlena Conner (Board Member & Mentor Liaison) as they present the awards. Michelle Rutledge (Board Member & Community Outreach) shares the opening prayer and recognizes Samantha for her hard work and dedication. The video also features Kendallee Walker (Samantha Barber’s daughter) as she addresses the group regarding a “Note on Leadership”, Anne Cobb (Vice President) reads a special letter from Dr. Michelle Edwards written to the girls, and closing prayer by Judith James:

To learn more about Reaching Out Now and programs, please visit: www.reachingoutnow.org

Special thanks was given to all of the community supporters who have helped Reaching Out Now throughout the year. Extra shout-out to the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center and Rotary Club of Warren County represented by Jen Avery at the ceremony. Thank you to Royal Examiner for helping to spread the word about Reaching Out Now.

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Virginia War Memorial seeks entries for 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest

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The Virginia War Memorial in Richmond is seeking entries for the Virginia War Memorial 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest.  The contest is open to all Virginia middle and high school age public, private and homeschooled students.

One winner will be selected from among all middle school entries (grades 6-8) and one from high school (grades 9-12) entries.

The topic for the 2020 contest is “An American Who Served in The Military During World War II Who Inspires Me.”  Students can consider a member of their family, of their community, or a famous man or woman who served in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as their subject.  Essays should be 500-750 words in length and utilize interviews and primary sources whenever possible.

The two students who write the winning essays will each receive a $200 gift card and each of their teachers, will earn receive a $100 gift card to purchase classroom supplies.  The student winners will also be invited to come to Richmond to read aloud their essays and participate in the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial on Wednesday, November 11, 2020.

The deadline for entries for the Virginia War Memorial 2020 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest is 11:59 p.m., Sunday, October 11, 2020.  Complete information regarding the essay theme, rules, guidelines and how to enter is available online or by calling Virginia War Memorial Assistant Education Director Morgan Guyer at 804-786-2060.


About the Virginia War Memorial

The mission of the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All.  Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and the Global War on Terrorism.  Located at 621 South Belvidere Street in Richmond, the Virginia War Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military.  For more details, visit www.virginiawarmemorial.org or www.dvs.virginia.gov.


About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services

The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia.  DVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans.  Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs.  The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries.  It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.

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Valley Health extends Paycheck Protection Plan to ensure workforce stability during COVID-19 uncertainty

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Valley Health System announced last week that it has extended the Paycheck Protection Plan enacted in April to provide income security to employees during a time of service disruption due to COVID-19. The protection initiative has been extended from an initial 90-day period, set to expire July 25, to remain in effect through the end of the year.

Valley Health implemented the Paycheck Protection Plan in mid-April as a pre-emptive response to significant declines in outpatient care, diagnostic testing, and elective procedures at Valley Health’s six hospitals and outpatient facilities. This reassurance to Valley Health’s employees was announced as hundreds of hospitals and health systems in the U.S. were laying off staff. Valley Health System’s Board of Trustees has authorized the use of reserve funds, if needed, to extend the Paycheck Protection Plan through 2020.

“As our health system and community were confronting COVID-19 and preparing for a potential surge of patients, we wanted our associates focused on one thing – providing safe, high-quality care and protecting their health — not worrying about their employment status or the financial impact of reduced hours,” said Valley Health President and CEO Mark Nantz. “Our initial commitment to the PPP initiative was for 90 days, and I’m proud to say that during this time, hundreds of our associates were able to maintain at least 70% of their pay and continued benefit coverage.”

The not-for-profit health system employs more than 6,000 dedicated associates, hundreds of whom benefited from the Paycheck Protection Plan after experiencing a reduction in hours due to service closures. While Valley Health’s day-to-day operations have not returned to pre-COVID normal, most full and part time associates have resumed their regular schedules, and the immediate need for the PPP has significantly decreased. But the local impact of the global pandemic has been difficult to predict.

“Acknowledging lingering uncertainty about the course of the virus in the months ahead, our leadership team and Trustees are committed to guaranteeing each associate a minimum of 70% of their regular pay should there be a reduction in hours related to COVID-19,” Nantz said. “Our priority is to remain strong and resilient, with our workforce intact, prepared to safeguard the health of our community.”


Valley Health is a not-for-profit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands, and western Maryland. Valley Health includes six hospitals, more than 50 physician practices, Urgent Care centers, regional medical transport services, home health services, and outpatient rehabilitation and fitness centers in six communities. Visit www.valleyhealthlink.com.

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Skyline High School Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony

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On August 1, 2020, the Skyline High School Class of 2020 had their long-awaited ceremony.  The ceremony was in two sections with students last name A-K at 8 am and L-Z at 10 am.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020.



Congratulations to Skyline High School Seniors – Class of 2020

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Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Richard Mabie announces retirement

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Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Richard E. Mabie announced today that he will retire effective December 31, 2020. Chief Mabie was appointed as the County’s very first Chief of Fire and Rescue Services on August 7, 1995, and has more than 50 years of public service in Virginia. Prior to joining Warren County, Chief Mabie served for 25 years in the Richmond City Fire Department with his last position held as Captain. Chief Mabie also served for 13 years as Chief of the Hanover Courthouse Volunteer Fire Company in Hanover County, Virginia.

Doug Stanley, County Administrator, stated, “Congratulations to Chief Mabie on his pending retirement. The progress that our community has made in the development of a county-wide Fire and Rescue Department is due to the hard work and dedication of Chief Mabie. During his 25+ year tenure, we have added the North Warren Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, added staffing to provide five 24/7 stations, completed a fire and rescue study of the community, and will soon be completing the new Rivermont Fire Station. I have been most impressed over the years with his work ethic and willingness to be a hands-on chief, personally running most of the significant calls in the community during his tenure. We have been fortunate as a community to have had such a dedicated leader of our fire and rescue services.”

Chief Mabie said, “On August 1, 1995, I received the honor of becoming the first Fire Chief of the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. As I look back at the past 25 years of service to this Department and community, I take great pride in knowing what we as a Department have accomplished. I have strived to build a Department capable of serving our community with the highest level of professionalism, dedication, and service possible. This could only have been accomplished by a diverse group of career and volunteer men and women that serve this community every day, of whom I am extremely proud! I walked into my office on my first day without an organized Department. I leave 25 years later an organization that is truly dedicated to serving our community as ‘One Department’ with ‘One Mission’. We are now very respected by other public safety agencies throughout the Shenandoah Valley.”

Chief Mabie added, “No fire department leader can succeed by himself. I appreciate the support of Doug Stanley as our County Administrator, together with the support that the men and women in this department, the Fire Chiefs’ Advisory Staff, elected officials, and the community have provided me over the past 25 years.”

The Warren County Fire and Rescue Office is located at 200 Skyline Vista Drive, Suite 200, Front Royal, VA, telephone (540) 636-3830. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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