Veterans will hold Memorial Day services throughout So. Pittsburgh
May 21, 2019
Traditions matter. They reinforce our sense of well-being and self-worth.
Whatever our personal traditions, they provide us with blueprints by which we celebrate life joyously and commemorate our losses respectfully.
One such decades-old community tradition is the annual Memorial Day military veterans' 16-stop pilgrimage from the Monongahela River to South Side Cemetery.
This year, Memorial Day and its pilgrimage fall on Monday, May 27.
All citizens are welcome at each and every one of the 16 destinations. One group of veterans is committed and dedicated to appearing at all of the 16 sites, including most members of the South Side Hilltop Memorial Day Parade Committee, as co-chaired by Curtis "Snuffy" Schmitt and Philip "Woody" Ortego.
For all of us it's about commemorating our fallen brethren. And celebrating them. We don't simply mourn. We're about affirming and honoring.
Each stop includes a short prayer, the placing of a wreath, a rifle salute, a bagpipe rendition of "Taps" and a bugle tribute by two members of the Warble family, whose matriarch, Linda Diane Warble, died Feb. 24. Adam Warble will be the bugler, Andrew Warble the bagpiper.
First of the 16 stops is the boat launch at South Side Riverside Park, off S. 18th Street. At 8 a.m., in the presence of local politicians and dignitaries, the ceremony includes the setting sail of a wreath in the Monongahela River.
Roughly every 15 minutes, those making the pilgrimage drive from site to site, the timing of each arrival necessarily being approximate.
8:15 a.m. -- VFW Post 6675, S. 20th at Sidney Streets.
8:30 a.m. – Carnegie Library, 2205 E. Carson St.
8:45 a.m. – Fire Station #24, 1724 Mary Street.
9 a.m. – Polish Veterans Memorial, 1807 Jane Street
9:15 a.m. – Vietnam Veterans Memorial, E. Carson at S. 18th Streets. (Vietnam Veterans Inc. Honor Guard participating at this site.)
9:30 a.m. – South High School Memorial, E. Carson at S. 10th Streets.
9:45 a.m. – Armstrong Park Memorial, Sarah at S. 12th Streets.
10 a.m. – Mission Street Memorial, 2315 Mission Street (across from St. Josephat Church).
10:15 a.m. -- Pius Street Memorial Garden, 105 Pius St.
11 a.m. -- 30th Ward Memorial, Brownsville Road at Suncrest Street.
11:15 a.m. -- Boy Scout Veterans Memorial, Brownsville Road between Birmingham and Linnview Avenues.
11:30 a.m. -- St. Adalbert Cemetery, 1512 Brownsville Road.
At South Side Cemetery, the National Anthem and other selections will be sung by the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer choir. This final stop will include an invocation by Jim Grab, a roll call of recently departed comrades, the placing of wreaths, a rifle salute to the deceased by marksman Philip Ortego, a valedictory by Ortego and the playing of "Taps."
Besides Ortego, Schmitt and Grab, the Hilltop committee consists of Officer of the Day Jim Wrzesinski, Treasurer Bob Meussner, Ways and Means Chairman Bob Szoszorek, Chaplain Johnny Vaulet, Media Representative Ed Blank and volunteers Denny Schlagel and Rege Ketter.
Among the local dignitaries who have committed to attending are Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, State Representative Harry Readshaw, District Judge Eugene Ricciardi, Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus and retired District Judge Ann Scharding.
Judge Scharding will join the entourage at Mt. Oliver Firehouse and stay with it to the end. She says she'll be the one playing patriotic music through open windows in her vehicle.
The committee collects flags and wreaths for placement at several district cemeteries during the week before Memorial Day.
The pilgrimage is supported by members of Veterans of Foreign Wars James P. Cryster Memorial Post 6675, American Legion Carrick-Brentwood Post 725, St. Adalbert Post 1522, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 76, Vietnam Veterans Inc, Vietnam Veterans of America, Italian American War Veterans and Military Officers Association of America.
To those who participate, in uniform or as spectators, the pilgrimage pierces the heart. It's our way of saying by our actions, our prayers and our salutes:
"Thank you, brothers and sisters, for the sacrifice of your lives in our behalf. You were there for us then. We lost you, but we love you, and we are here for you now. Your lives mattered. You made a difference."