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The members of the St. Marys Servicemen's Burial Detail are a familiar sight to anyone who has attended the funeral of an area veteran. Veterans themselves, they are a moving sight as they salute, present the flag and perform other rituals as a sign of respect and an appropriate farewell to someone who has served in a branch of the U.S. military. To further honor deceased veterans, the burial detail is planning to erect monuments at both the St. Mary's Catholic and St. Marys Protestant cemeteries.
"We just got together and decided it would be nice to have something up there permanently," said Joe Rigard, president of the burial detail.
The burial detail is celebrating its 60th year of service to deceased veterans and their families, and wanted to mark the anniversary with something special. According to burial detail member Tom Farley, a permanent memorial to honor area veterans, both living and deceased, serving in peacetime or in war, seemed a fitting tribute.
"It's in recognition and honor of those men and women who have served, both living and deceased," Farley said. "We wouldn't have the freedoms that we have today if it wasn't for our veterans.
"Being in a veteran's organization, who better than a veteran and a veteran's organization to do something like this?"
After deciding to go forward with the plan, the burial detail received permission from both cemeteries to erect granite monuments on an approved site at each.
"We have a pinpoint from both cemeteries of where they're going to go," said Bob Mohr, the burial detail's service officer.
Susie and Don "Flip" Bobenrieth, owners of St. Marys Monuments, assisted them with the design of the monuments, which will stand about six feet high and be about seven feet wide at the base. The monuments will feature the insignia of all five branches of the U.S. military -- the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard -- on the front, as well as eagles in flight and a pictorial of various military and patriotic symbols.
The burial detail is working with American Legion Post 103, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 948, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1047 and Helping Hands of St. Marys, a group that places wreaths on deceased veterans' graves each winter during the holiday season, to help fund the project. They are also requesting the public's assistance. A bank account has been established and donations may be sent to: Veterans' Monuments, P.O. Box 549, St. Marys, PA 15857.