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St. Marys native Lt. Col. Daniel F. Kuntz, U.S. Army, served as the Honorary Grand Marshal for this year's Memorial Day celebration, taking part in the annual parade and addressing attendees during the Memorial Day program.
As he began his remarks at Memorial Park in front of a large crowd, he noted that it was both a beautiful day and "great to be back in St. Marys once again."
"Memorial Day is the day we Americans have set aside to honor those who have heard our nation's call to serve and to remember their ultimate sacrifice they made on behalf of all of us. All Americans should be eternally grateful for their sacrifice. We should do all that we can to safeguard the traditions of Memorial Day and to preserve the memory of those that have died in order to protect the ideals our country was founded upon," Kuntz said.
He reminisced about enjoying many Memorial Day parades in his youth.
"I also remember going to listen to many distinguished guest speakers on Memorial Day growing up here in St. Marys and it is truly an honor to follow in the tradition of those distinguished speakers who have gone before me," Kuntz said.
Of the speeches he heard in his youth, Kuntz remarked that there was one in particular that stood out in his memory, a speech given by General Edward C. Meyer when he served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
"His example as a leader and a man from our small town in north central Pennsylvania, who rose to the highest-ranking officer in the United States Army, is one of the reasons [Kuntz and one of his friends] joined the army and remain in it 20 years later today. General Meyer's examples of leadership during his Army career have taught me a great deal about how to be a leader in today's Army," Kuntz said.
He noted that when he recently found himself in command of his own battalion, he asked Gen. Meyer if he had any advice.
"He passed on to me many things that he learned growing up in St. Marys. He said they served him well throughout his career in the military, and he told me to always be true to what I learned. He told me I should never forget to be honest and truthful to my soldiers, share their hardship, treat them as I wanted to be treated, and take care of their needs above my own. He said, 'when you take care of them, they will rise up and take care of the mission when you need them most.' And, for sure, he was always right about that," Kuntz said.
Kuntz shared with the crowd some interesting facts and traditions associated with Memorial Day. While he indicated that many people no longer truly appreciate the significance of the occasion, he added that this is not the case in St. Marys.