OCEAN PARK — This past September, Ocean Park resident Harry Schmale and his wife, Mickey, along with their daughter and son-in-law, visited Washington, D.C.
Harry had never been there and was eager to see the many memorials and other sites. One of their main goals was for him to see the World War II Memorial, since he had served in the Navy during that time.
Harry was drafted in 1942 and went into the SeaBees. His basic training was at Camp Lejeune, NC, and from there he was shipped to Okinawa.
The Schmale family became friends with New York State Sen. Greg Ball during a trip to Texas and he had said if they ever were able to go to D.C. to let him know, which they did. Sen. Ball was taking a group of veterans from his district to the memorial and invited them to join the group.
Mickey said, “What a wonderful decision that was when we accepted his invitation. We arrived at the memorial around 10 a.m. and preparations were in full swing to greet the arriving veterans. The Air Force Honor Guard was practicing their formations, the Honor Band was tuning their instruments, flags and posters were being distributed to those who were meeting the buses. There was a feeling of expectation, excitement and reverence and respect that was almost tangible.
“The two buses from New York were met by the Honor Guard and Sen. Ball as they arrived. Each veteran was greeted with salutes and applause as they stepped off or were assisted off the bus. Other members of the Honor Guard stepped forward to greet the Veterans.
“The phrase of the day was “Thank you!” Over and over, you heard each member of the active military say thank you to each veteran as they shook hands; each veteran thanked each member of the younger military and tears could be seen in many of the eyes of both young and old.
“We were escorted by the Honor Guard into the memorial for the Laying of the Wreath ceremony. Special honor was paid to a veteran from New York who had twice been a prisoner of war. At the end of the ceremony Taps was played in memory of all those who did not come home and those who have passed since that time.
“As I looked around at all the older veterans, I saw tears on their cheeks, many with eyes closed, head and shoulders bowed in sorrow and reverence. As the last note sounded, there were very few dry eyes to be seen; the silence was over-whelming, the only sound to be heard was the sound of the flags in the wind. This very reverent silence lasted several minutes.
“This is an experience that will long be remembered by all who were there.” (ARTICLE)