By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
GROVE CITY —
The words of Jesus in John 15:13 in the Bible could be a description of a fallen veteran: "Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends."
Jesus was meaning his perfect sacrifice for mankind, which is not to be confused with "our imperfect offerings," said Army Col. Douglas Mastriano. However, "there have been men and women throughout the years willing to give their lives for their friends and for the nation."
Mastriano was a guest speaker at Grove City Memorial Park on Saturday morning at a ceremony for the American Veterans Traveling Tribute/Traveling Wall, also called "The Wall," the largest traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Arlington, Va., that was set up at the local park last Wednesday through Sunday.
Bringing The Wall has been planned for a year by local American Legion Posts 160 and 220; Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania Grove City Lodge 603; Office of Veterans Affairs in Mercer County; and individuals in conduction with the borough.
Mastriano came from the Army's War College, where he is the director of theater intelligence. His early service was on the German and Czechoslovakian borders during the end of the Cold War. His regiment led the main attack against Iraq's elite Republican Guards in Desert Storm. Mastriano has also served three tours in Afghanistan.
A military historian - some of his work can be seen on www.sgtyorkdiscovery.com - the colonel said many of the 58,000-plus names on The Wall "are from this area."
He talked about Carl James Forrester, whose name is on the 128th row of Panel 40.
From Mercer, the 24-year-old James was in the Army's 1st Calvary Division when he was killed with 287 other Americans in an operation in South Vietnam on Jan. 28, 1966. Those wounded in the operation numbered 990 Americans.
"When we look at these numbers, whether it be 58,000 on the wall or 288 in (the operation), it can come to a dangerous thing - that it's just another name," Mastriano said.
But Forrester - and those like him - are not just names to the families left in the wake of their deaths, "leaving a hole that no man can fill," Mastriano said.
"Greater love hath no man than this ..."
Mastriano asked the crowd why people like Forrester would be willing to make such a sacrifice.
A group of Christians - the Pilgrims - arrive to these shores after years of terrible religious persecution in England. They laid the foundation for the life Americans enjoy and "the unparalleled liberty and freedom we embrace," Mastriano said.
"It is such things that makes America great and make men and women lay down their lives for this nation."
In world history, people often swore allegiance to a Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler, to name a few dictators. Americans swear allegiance to ideas rather than a man; ideas in the Constitution, such as freedom of speech, the press and religion, Mastriano said.
Patrick Henry said, "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death," during the American Revolution, which reflect the same ideas of Forrester and others like him who serve - and die for - the country.
Today there are U.S. military around the globe "holding at bay the evil forces that intend to do us harm," Mastriano said. "They are on the cutting edge of freedom."
Many Americans can't serve in the military; however, they can help by thanking veterans who have served, and caring for the families when they are deployed by mentoring their children or lending a hand around their homes.
"But most of all, you can pray for those in uniform for God to strengthen them and bless them with wisdom and victory," Mastriano said.
The nation has been at war since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on American soil. "Much has changed, but one thing that remains constant are those who stand in the gap between us and the forces of evil," he added.
"Greater love has no man than this ..."
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner was to be the keynote speaker at Saturday's gathering, but a fatal accident occurred on Interstate 80 on his way from Independence, Ohio, and he could not make it in time.
However, Wagner arrived to meet and greet veterans and guests who came to The Wall. Besides his U.S. service, the lieutenant general had also served in Europe, Africa, Panama and Vietnam.
"It's very nice that the city with the (Grove City) American Legion made an effort to bring The Wall to honor veterans," he said. Out of the 58,000 names, "Each was a person; a husband, father, brother - mostly 18, 19, 20 years old."
Oftentimes, people get upset over having to wait for minor things. "Think of a serviceman or woman gone five or six years," he said. "If a son was born, he doesn't see him until he walks. If he plays football, he misses seeing all those games. And there's no one to help the wife with discipline."
Of all the freedoms Americans enjoy, "Everyone of them was fought for," he added.
"No soldier wants to die for their country but they still volunteer. The valor they've shown cannot be measured," added state Rep. Dick Stevenson, who also spoke at the gathering.
The Wall travels all over the U.S. It is 80 percent of the official memorial that lists the names of fallen Vietnam veterans.
Published Sept. 18, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.