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Morgenland Church has first Wreaths Across America event

Karen Berta played 12 chimes on the organ at noon this past Dec. 14, to open the Wreaths Across America program at Morgenland Church, Leather Corner Post, Orefield.

The local event was organized by Barry Werley and Debbie Arner.

Helping were members of American Legion Allen O. Delke Post 16 of Slatington and the Lower Macungie Clovers 4-H Club.

The colors were posted by the American Legion.

Susan Livingston gave the welcome and asked for "a moment of silence to remember the fallen, the prisoners of war and missing in action, and to honor those who have served and are serving in the armed forces."

The National Anthem was then sung.

Livingston said the snowy weather had forced some changes to the program.

Families who sponsored a wreath could place it on a grave. The extra wreaths would be added to the graves with flags by the Clovers and anyone who wanted to help.

Livingston told those gathered 22 years ago in a wreath-maker from Maine sent some to Arlington Cemetery.

That was the beginning of Wreaths Across America, which has spread to 900 locations throughout the country.

Livingston's husband spent a year in Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom.

She and her daughters went twice to Arlington where the wreath laying is in one section only because the cemetery is too massive.

She described Arlington as a quiet place.

They walked through Arlington after the wreath laying and saw the gravestones of many notables including those from the USS Maine which exploded in Havanna Harbor, Cuba, in 1898.

But the veterans in the graves outside the church are just as important, she said.

"We are glad to live in a free society," Livingston told those gathered. "Many gave their lives so we can live in freedom.

"Our nation is a shining beacon in the world. America is always first to stand up for freedom.

"We are here to say thank you. When you see a veteran thank him for his service.

"Ronald Reagan said freedom is only one generation from extinction. It must always be fought for."

The audience was then invited to join in singing the service anthems: the "Caisson Song" for the Army; the "Marines' Hymn" for the Marines; "Anchors Aweigh" for the Navy; and the "U.S. Air Force" song for the Air Force.

These songs were followed by "America the Beautiful."

A remembrance wreath laying planned for the Veterans' Monument in the cemetery was held in the church.

Ralph Werley placed one for the Army; Earl Horning for the Marine Corps; Daryl Phifer for the Navy; Jim Pudleiner for the Air Force; Larry Wink for the Coast Guard; and Elmer Baer for the Merchant Marines.

Jay Koren laid a wreath for the 93,129 members of the military whose last known status was prisoner of war or missing in action. The colors were retired as Legion members moved outside for a 21-gun salute.

Nathaniel Czarnecki and Aidan Burke played "Taps" with an echoing refrain.

Debbie Arner said the church became involved with Wreaths Across America after Capt. Mark Resh, son of Carol and Charlie Resh, was killed while serving his country. Arner participated in the wreath laying at Arlington and thought the Lehigh Valley should participate. Last year, she gave a presentation to church members, a donation was given and some of the members volunteered.

She wanted Morgenland Church to participate especially because Mark Resh was confirmed and went to Sunday School at Morgenland.

She said the wreaths laid in the church would be taken to the Veterans' Monument when the weather is better.