Ceremony highlights cost of freedom

Navy Capt. Dennis Smith said he hopes that people can remember the “deeper meaning” of Memorial Day in between Monday’s customary parades and picnics.

Smith, a featured speaker at the Alto-Reste Park Cemetery’s service on Sunday, said it’s easy to forget that, though millions of soldiers make it home from deployment, many do not.

To emphasize the point, Smith read a letter penned by Marine Sgt. William Stacey, who died in January 2012 while serving in Afghanistan. Smith said Stacey wrote the letter shortly before his fourth deployment in case something were to happen to him.

Stacey wrote that, should he die in combat, he hopes he allowed at least one Afghani child to grow up to make a difference.

“My death did not change the world,” Stacey wrote, “but there will be a child who will live. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long.”

Smith said Stacey’s story, which is like that of many others, reminds us everything has a cost.

“Freedom is not free,” Smith said. “There is an ultimate price.”

Sunday’s service also featured prayers from local pastor Hud Crossman, a speech by state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, and songs of praise and remembrance.

Veterans from each branch of the military were recognized for their service. A riderless horse, provided by the Jaffa Mounted Patrol, accompanied the presentation of the colors, symbolizing fallen soldiers.