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Beech Creek to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with parade, activities

TAMMY COAKLEY/FOR THE EXPRESS Shown is the Community Service Monument and Flag Poles at the American Legion Bitner-Bechdel Post 623 in Beech Creek. The Memorial Day Parade begins in Blanchard this year at 10 a.m. and will conclude at the Legion grounds. A memorial service and a wreath laying ceremony will be held at the Community Service Monument following the parade.

BEECH CREEK — The Bitner-Bechdel American Legion Post 623 in Beech Creek will be holding its annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday morning.

According to Legion member Bill Bechdel, “The parade route will run in reverse this year, beginning at the Baptist Cemetery near the Liberty Baptist Church in Blanchard and ending at the American Legion grounds on Wynn Avenue in Beech Creek.”

Parade participants are invited and should line up at 9 a.m. in the area of the Blanchard baseball fields behind Griffin’s Restaurant on Ridge Crest Drive. The fire siren in Beech Creek will signal the 10 a.m. start of the parade.

The Honor and Color Guard, expected to be coordinated by Beech Creek native and PA Army National Guardsman Brian Coakley, will be leading the parade. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Coakley along with his fellow guardsmen and military personnel will perform the 21-gun salute at the cemeteries, at the Beech Creek Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and at the Legion’s flag pole. Wreaths will be laid at each of the cemeteries and a floating wreath will be laid on the water at the bridge in remembrance of all of the military veterans who died while serving in each branch of the armed forces.

Legion Commander Joe Hills began his military career with the Army Airborne completing two tours in Germany and then later served 18 years in the Air Force during the Vietnam conflict. Hills has set the schedule for the cemetery services during the morning, some being held before the start of the parade while others will be during the parade route and after the parade has been completed.

The first ceremony will be at the Hays-Fearon-Bossert Cemetery beginning at 9:15 a.m. followed by the Clark Cemetery at approximately 9:30 a.m. From there the Commander, American Legion dignitaries and the Honor Guard will travel to the starting point of the parade at the Baptist Cemetery for the ceremony at approximately 9:50 a.m. Once this ceremony is completed and the fire siren sounds, the parade participants will begin their trek towards Beech Creek stopping at the Church of Christ Cemetery and the Veterans Memorial Bridge before making their way to the American Legion grounds.

All traffic will be stopped while the parade is marching on Route 150 and Main Street through Beech Creek. There is not a detour route available so there could be a delay of 30-45 minutes or more until the last parade participants veer onto Wynn Avenue.

Once all participants get to the Legion grounds, the Memorial Ceremony at the flag poles and Community Service Monument will be held. The Wall of Honor features the names of community leaders, area veterans and first responders.

In addition to the parade on Monday, there will be a house decorating contest sponsored by the American Legion and at the Friendship Community Center on Sunday evening beginning at 6 p.m. former Beech Creek Mayor Dave Orr will be presenting an informative lecture on the history of the Beech Creek Veterans Memorial Bridge. Orr was instrumental in working with former State Representative Mike Hanna to have this bridge named to honor all local veterans.

The house decorating contest is open to residents of Liberty Township and Beech Creek Township along with the town of Blanchard and Beech Creek Borough who are encouraged to enter their homes in the house decorating contest showing your American Pride and patriotic spirit.

“You must enter your house first by visiting the American Legion or the Beech Creek Borough office or by calling me at 570-660-2568 before noon on Saturday, May 28, to provide your name, street address and telephone number. The street address is needed for the committee members to conduct a ‘drive-by’ of your home to judge the entries so we can pick the best decorated homes in the area,” said Bechdel, a committee member for the contest.

“Decorations can be of any sort, whether it be flowers, banners, balloons, or bows, whatever you want to use, the more colorful the better,” elaborated Bechdel. “And, the most important decoration I can think of would be for everyone to fly the American Flag, whether you enter the contest or not.”

Contest winners will be announced on Monday afternoon and each will be notified by telephone.

Bechdel, himself an Army veteran, would like to see the residents continue with their patriotic decorations and adding to them throughout the summer months and — depending on the number of entries and the amount of interest for the Memorial Day contest — there may be another house decorating contest for the July 4 holiday.

The American Legion is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. Commander Hills, Bechdel and others involved with the local Legion board would like to extend an invitation to veterans who may not already be service members of the club to do so.

A service member is anyone who has been or currently is in the military. Other opportunities for membership with the local club are with the American Legion Auxiliary, the Sons of the Legion or becoming a social member of the establishment.

A membership drive is planned for later this summer, but for those who may be interested in becoming a club member now, you need only see a Legion representative for a membership application to be considered.

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