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    Pa. Gov. Wolf, 28 ID soldiers remember the fallen at Boalsburg

    28 ID honors fallen at Boalsbug

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Roles | A 28th Infantry Division color guard passes the U.S., Pennsylvania and 28 ID flags in...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Doug Roles 

    28th Infantry Division

    There are place names in American history that stir the souls of patriots. Valley Forge. Gettysburg. Pearl Harbor. They’ve become synonymous with sacrifice and they challenge the living to honor those who died in military service.
    For the 28th Infantry Division there is such a place. It’s a sleepy central Pennsylvania town. The name captures the spirit of its soldiers and sums up the unit’s heritage as America’s oldest continuously-serving Army division, while challenging that division to never forget its fallen warriors.
    And to Keystone soldiers it’s more divine providence than quirk of history that Boalsburg, the home of the 28th Infantry Division Shrine (the setting of the 28 ID Annual Memorial Service), is also widely recognized as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
    “There’s no more fitting place to hold this ceremony than this place, Boalsburg, where Memorial Day was born,” Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf told Gold Star families, soldiers and friends of the division who gathered at the shrine for the May 21, 2017 service.
    Boalsburg claims Memorial Day because it was here – at a cemetery across the road from what would become the grounds of the division shrine – that townspeople pledged to meet each year to place flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers. It’s fitting that the state’s Guardsmen would pledge to meet annually at the shrine.
    The 28th’s shrine is a quiet, out-of-the way place. Sentinel pine trees – planted years ago in homage to those who served in Hurtgen Forest – keep watch over monuments inscribed with the names of the division’s honored dead. Spring Creek flows gently beneath a stone footbridge that joins the shrine to the rest of the Pennsylvania Military Museum grounds at this park near State College and Penn State University.
    Once a year, in late spring, the stillness of the shrine gives way to martial music. The cement gray of monuments is enlivened by a processional of unit colors, the placing of wreaths and red, white and blue bunting.
    The division band’s selections, the bloom of color and the remarks of division leaders go only so far to honor the fallen. The tears of those personally connected to the monument inscriptions take it from there.
    “There is no way we can ever repay the debt we owe you or the debt we owe them,” Wolf told the more than 100 Gold Star family members present this year. “But through ceremonies and services like this we can at least show our appreciation for what they have done and for what all these brave women and men do for us, often without expectation of reward or recognition.”
    “Words can never express the sacrifice that you have made as family members,” the governor added. “We mourn with you. All of Pennsylvania mourns with you.”
    One set of Gold Star parents attending this year are Chuck and Diane Ruffner of Cherry Tree, Pa. They stopped to have their photo taken next to the 28th Infantry Division Global War on Terror Memorial, erected in 2016 in honor of the 42 division soldiers killed in action since 9-11. One of those soldiers is their son, Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Ruffner, killed in Afghanistan April 9, 2013.
    “We’ve been coming to Boalsburg every year since we lost Matt,” Diane says.
    Another of the names on the GWOT monument is that of Staff Sgt. Keith Bennett, killed in Iraq Dec. 11, 2005. His step-father, Tom Miller, and his mother, Carolyn Miller, of Drewmore, Pa. also stopped by the monument prior to the start of the official ceremony. The Millers have attended Boalsburg both as supportive parents and as those in the Gold Star ranks. They say the event is bittersweet for them now.
    “The first time we were here we came to see him (Bennett) in the parade. That was 12 years ago,” Carolyn says.
    “It’s hard to come here now knowing it’s ‘in memory of’ instead of ‘in attendance with.’ But it’s good to be here with the other families,” Tom says.
    Being with the families and the soldiers on the grounds of what was the Boal estate is the heart of the annual memorial service, an event that sprang from the early reunions of Col. Theodore Boal’s WWI machine gun troop. Boal, from the town’s namesake family, funded and equipped a 90-soldier company that would see action in France alongside other 28 ID units.
    “The 28 ID’s nickname, ‘Iron Division,’ was earned on those European battlefields a century ago,” Pennsylvania Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Anthony Carrelli reminded the audience.
    “The annual trip to Boalsburg is a highlight of every spring. It’s always great to be part of this day when we honor American soldiers who gave all they had to defend the freedom and liberties that we enjoy today. We are greatly honored today by the presence of our Gold Star families.”
    He added that thousands of division soldiers continue to serve today, defending freedom globally and protecting the commonwealth from snowstorms, floods and other disasters while also providing security for large events, such as last year’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
    “Hundreds of division soldiers have recently returned from nearly year-long deployments overseas,” Carrelli said. “In the coming months, hundreds more will take their place, including our own 28th Division staff.”
    Brig. Gen. Andrew Schafer, division commander, listed a number of recent training events in which division soldiers participated. He also noted that soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team recently completed a peacekeeping rotation in Kosovo while soldiers of the 110th Infantry have returned from a mission in which they trained Jordanian Army soldiers.
    Schafer assured those present that the Iron Division will not forget its fallen heroes and will continue to be ready to serve.
    “I want to tell you that your storied 28th Infantry Division is doing very well,” said Schafer. “Every brigade in the division is over 100 percent strength.”



    Date Taken: 05.21.2017
    Date Posted: 05.24.2017 09:06
    Story ID: 235029

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