Eugene Grafius American Legion Post 104

Veterans Day commemorated
at Montoursville Cemetery

The sound of bagpipes and the words of gratitude filled the crisp November air at the annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the Montoursville Cemetery on Friday.

After the musical opening by Arno Vosk, Montoursville Cemetery Board of Directors secretary, Donald King welcomed the crowd, making mention of one long-time guest of the ceremony who sadly passed away earlier this year.

“I want to make a note of one who’s not here this year, and that’s Garth Everett,”
King said. “Garth is gone, but the memories of what he said over those years are going to remain with you.”

King’s family is from Montgomery, and his great uncle, Cleveland Huffman was killed during World War I.

After a scripture reading from Rev. Robert Rice, of Muncy Baptist Church, state Rep. Jamie Flick, R-South Williamsport, took to the podium.

Flick detailed his family’s long history of military service including his grandfather, Montgomery native Benjamin Weller, who was among the 9,777 marines that lost their lives in the Battle of Belleau Wood during World War I, and his father, who served post-World War II, as well as his youngest son, Sequoia, who also served.

“From the very, very bottom of my and my family’s heart, and from all of those in Lycoming County that have served that have passed and that continue to serve. Thank you so very, very much,” Flick said.

Harry Swank, Commander of Eugene Grafius Post 104, then offered a story of service, featuring Seaman Second Class Eugene Grafius.

Grafius, who lost his life on Oct. 1, 1918, after a battle between his ship, the USS Ticonderoga, engaged a German U-boat.

“The Ticonderoga was out of commission after six shots, but the six inch gun continued the uneven battle,”
Swank said. “Almost every man onboard was wounded, including the captain. They fought it out for two hours but at 7:45 a.m., she slipped beneath the sea.”

“Of the 237 sailors and soldiers on board only 24 survived,” Swank said. Grafius’ body was never recovered.

“On that day, Eugene Grafius transferred to what we in the American Legion call post-everlasting. He was 22 years old.”

Swank then turned his attention to the relatively understated handling ofVeteran’s Day in comparison to other major holidays.

“I’ve always thought Veterans Day got the short end of the stick, holiday-wise, for many Americans,” Swank said. “Many people view Memorial Day as the official day to pay tribute to service members from the various branches of the armed forces who gave their lives in service to the nation, and yet this day, Veterans Day, serves a very important purpose.”

“It is the day we recognize not just those who have given their lives in war, but all those who have worn a uniform of service,” Swank added.

In light of the heavy price paid by veterans, Swank implored the audience, especially the youths in attendance, to give back by volunteering to help wounded veterans or giving time to centers such as the American Legion, which he said was ripe with volunteer opportunities.

Additionally, Swank spoke on the importance of helping veterans navigate the complex mental health issues that arise from service.

“The Legion has a program called Be the One,” Swank said. “We all need to be the one to begin thinking, talking and acting to save just one life. That means reaching out for help to assist a loved one,” Swank explained, “calling a helpline in time of crisis. The new 988 Emergency Suicide Hotline is a valuable resource.”

“Be proactive to get the veteran the help they need. Don’t assume someone else will act. Take the initiative,” Swank added. “If you’re a vet, please share your story with others. Let everyone know what you’ve done so that they can see the many faces and military service and appreciate the personal service of their neighbors.”

Alivia Tagliaferri, author, documentary filmmaker, and district office manager for Flick, then introduced the third grade students of Lyter Elementary School, who, under the direction of Jenilee Kukuchka, performed patriotic numbers, “The Brave” and “Thank a Veteran.”

Tagliaferri then introduced the final guest speaker of the event, Rho Kappa History Honor Society of Montoursville High School President, Lucia Catino, with her presentation, “What Service Means To Me.”

“‘Thank you for your service,’ a phrase often said on this day in passing, ”Catino said. “But, the phrase ‘thank you for your service’ means more than a light expression of gratitude. It commemorates the men and women who have fearlessly fought for the safety and security of the United States of America.”

“My grandfather served in the Vietnam War and he has told me countless stories of the feelings he felt during the war. He often talked about the weight of the war physically, mentally and emotionally,” Catino said. “‘No matter the job title of veterans, all should be commemorated on this day; the people in the United States can feel safe and secure because of the work that they have done and continue to do. To close I would just like to say ‘thank you for your service.'”

After brief closing remarks from King and Rice, the somber sound of Taps closed out the ceremony, a reminder of those that gave their lives to acountry showing appreciation for all who have served on this Veteran’s Day.

Veterans Day 2023

source: Williamsport Sun Gazette 11/13/23

Return to Events page