As Americans mourn the airmen and women, soldiers, sailors, Air Corps, and Marines who gave the ultimate sacrifice, gatherings occurred all over Elk County. As we do every May, volunteers placed flags on streets and homes, left wreaths on the graves of the fallen, while some just light a candle in memory of loved ones gone. Each year, there is a public tribute in Ridgway, with flags placed on the graves at cemeteries for veterans across the county, speeches, and the solemn placing of wreaths.  

As Elk County and the nation take the first tentative steps out of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Ridgway American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, and The Ridgway Military Honor Detail came together to pay honor to those fallen in two separate ceremonies in Ridgway on Monday. It was a smaller ceremony than is traditional, as many are still wary crowds in the wake of 2020. 

The Ridgway Legion, VFW, and Honor Guard came together first on the Clarion Bridge to honor those lost in the nation's battles on the sea and in the air by tossing a bouquet of flowers into the Clarion River.  A small parade, led by Chief Ralph Tettis of the Ridgway Police Department, members of the  American Legion, the VFW, and the Military Honor Detail, proceeded down Main Street to the Elk County Courthouse. 

With the perfect weather conditions, the remembrance continued to the main steps of the Elk County Courthouse and the newly refurbished War Memorial featuring flags from all branches of the service. Police Chief Tettis read aloud the Policeman's Prayer, followed by a moving speech by Ridgway VFW Commander John Fletcher, followed by Deputy Tom Fullem of the American Legion. 
 
An especially moving moment, both at the Clarion Bridge and the Courthouse, was when 95-year old Richard Dankmyer, who served in the Air Corps in WWII and as a paratrooper at Iwo Jima, stood up, with assistance, from his wheelchair for the playing of "Taps." When asked later why it was so important for him to stand, he replied, "For those who cannot."
 
The ceremony was marked by “Taps,” played by the Ridgway Honor Guard's own Joyce Carr, along with the traditional gun salute.  The ceremony concluded once the flag was raised to full staff, with members of all of the assembled services saying prayers in memory of those gone.

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