NEWTOWN >> COVID-19 again forced the cancellation of the traditional Memorial Day Parade in Newtown, but local veterans couldn't let the day pass without remembering the men and women who gave their lives on the battlefields of history.
Escorted by the Newtown Borough and Newtown Township Police Departments, a small contingent of veterans from American Legion Post 440 and others visited the Newtown Cemetery, the World War I monument at the Newtown Library Company and the Lighthouse Hill Cemetery for brief, but poignant ceremonies.
Their first stop was at the flag-marked grave of Private Thomas Henry Torbert Wynkoop (1841-1862) in the Newtown Cemetery.
At the young age of 21 Wynkoop, a member of Co. C, 104th PA Infantry, was killed in action on the ironclad gunboat USS Mound City on June 8, 1862, while in the Western Gun-Boat Service. The former Newtown G.A.R. Post, where his brother, William served as post commander, was named in his honor.
Post 440 Chaplain Chuck Resch offered a prayer, Commander Rob Boysen laid a wreath assisted by Sr. Vice Commander Bill Harper, and an honor guard fired three volleys in honor of Wynkoop and his service to the nation.
“We pray for all those who gave their lives for our country. Let us remember with love and reverence our valiant and honored fallen heroes,” said Resch, his head bowed in prayer “Grant that we should always appreciate and treasure our freedom and never forget the great price for which it was purchased.”
The veterans then made the brief walk to the other side of the cemetery where they paused at the gravesite of Morell Smith, the namesake of their post. Smith was killed Oct. 18, 1918 in the Meuse–Argonne offensive three weeks before the end of World War I.
The Meuse–Argonne offensive was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers. It is the second deadliest battle in American history, resulting in over 350,000 casualties including 28,000 German lives, 26,277 American lives and an unknown number of French lives.
“It was a blood bath. It would have been unbelievably difficult with the German fortifications that they had,” said Post 440 historian Jon Guy.
Chaplain Chuck Resch again offered a prayer, Commander Rob Boysen laid a wreath assisted by Sr. Vice Commander Bill Harper and an honor guard fired three volleys in honor of Smith and his service to the nation.
TAPS were played at each site by Council Rock High School North musicians Jack Durning and Carson Schaffer.
From the Newtown Cemetery, the veterans paraded and rode down Centre Avenue to the Newtown Library Company where they were met by a large crowd of people who had gathered to pay homage.
The veterans laid a wreath at the foot of the World War I monument, offered a prayer and honored the memory of the deceased with salutes.
The veterans then marched to the Lighthouse Hill Cemetery, a small neighborhood burial ground at North Congress Street and Frost Lane. The cemetery is operated and maintained by the Community Welfare Council of Newtown and is the final resting place for a number of African American veterans.
The march concluded at Pickering Field where the veterans participated in opening ceremonies for a vintage baseball game between the Newtown Strakes and the Flemington Neshanock.
The Post 440 American Legion Color Guard made up of Tom Morris, Bill Steele, Larry Kerwood and Jim Anderson posted the Colors and Emily Higgins sang the National Anthem.
The ceremony also included the dedication of the game to longtime American Legion Post member Jim Casey Sr., who for years organized the town’s Memorial Day Parade. Casey died on Dec. 12, 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.