Quakertown’s Memorial Day service received a major jolt of passion, courtesy of the Quakertown Community School District — its students, teachers and administrators — who displayed a love and appreciation for America’s veterans who went to war to protect our freedoms and never returned home.
The prideful event at Memorial Park, following the majestic sounds and marching of the bands from the high school and Strayer Middle School, included an emotional keynote speech by Dr. Bill Harner, QCSD’s superintendent and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army.
Harner momentarily broke down when talking about Frank Parker, the high school band director whose father was killed in Vietnam.
“It was very difficult to get through that part of the speech,” Harner said. “I have a deep respect for Frank, his commitment to his students, our program, and his loyalty to the Quakertown Community.”
Harner’s emotion was not lost on Parker, who stood with his students not far from where the superintendent spoke. “It’s nice to know that he included a personal message to me,” Parker said. “It’s very nice for him to take that moment.”
Each year, Parker speaks with his students about the importance of Memorial Day. “It’s a connection my students will always have,” he said.
Coincidently, the theme of Harner’s speech, on Memorial Day’s 150th anniversary, was that very same historical perspective Parker provides to his students.
“Your attendance role models for younger generations this sacred tradition and creates habits for their behavior for years to come,” Harner said. “You reap what you sow!”
Harner, whose speech can be found on pages 2–3, told of his personal struggles following the events of 9/11. He spoke of the selfless nature of America’s heroes and their willingness to die to protect their families and our country.
“It was fantastic to have Dr. Harner here so that we have a representative from the school who has served our country,” said Dick Helm of Quakertown’s American Legion Post 212, who praised Harner’s “wonderful message.”
“He can speak to the future of our youth.”
Several students from the high school played a role in the ceremonies. Ana Handel read “Flanders Fields” and Adam Fischer read “The Gettysburg Address.”
Grace Wilson and Micah Kunkle were each awarded the American Legion’s Certificate of Distinguished Achievement.
The high school band played a salute to the armed forces, in which veterans stood when their service branch was called. And after the names of the local service members killed in battle were read, followed by a ringing bell, members of American Legion Post 242 and VFW Post 11322 who died in the last year were given a similar sign of respect.
The American Legion Honor Guard performed a rifle salute and high school band member Paul Hand then played Taps.
When the service concluded, several people in the crowd thanked Harner for his speech and his service.
“It was a very special day,” Harner said.