I am writing today to echo and advance the sentiment expressed by the Times Observer in your May 30 editorial regarding Warren City Council's recent policy decision to charge veterans organizations a fee to use a city park. This resulted in the annual Memorial Day service, traditionally held on the steps on the Warren County Courthouse, being moved to Youngsville.
As a member of the Pennsylvania House, it has always been my policy to let local government govern its own affairs, including the collection of local tax revenue. However, as this fee negatively impacts the veterans whose service is commemorated by the both the monuments located within and the very existence of Soldiers and Sailors and General Joseph Warren parks, I must weigh in from the perspective of what celebrating Memorial Day and all other military holidays is about.
The purpose for both Memorial Day and Veterans Day, or dare I say the only priority, is to honor the memory of those who have served our country and who have given their lives doing so.
If nothing else, preparing to speak at such events forces me to remember that Memorial Day was never supposed to be a three-day weekend filled with nothing but picnics and cookouts. The sentiments expressed to me by our honored veterans who participated in the Youngsville Memorial Day service regarding this fee went far beyond disappointment. To summarize, how much more can our local veterans give when they are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our nation?
Moreover, collecting a user's fee from our local veteran's organizations sends a horrible message to our youth. Regardless of when and where they served, our honored veterans should be cherished and respected as heroes.
In short, we should observe Memorial Day and all other military holidays because our freedom as Americans is a precious gift purchased at a great cost - a cost measured in human lives. The monuments at Soldiers and Sailors and General Joseph Warren parks should always remind us that freedom is not free.
To that end, we must always recognize that there is no higher form of public service than wearing the uniform of one's country.
I urge Warren City Council to honor the immeasurable sacrifices of our local veterans by immediately restoring their right to use our local military parks for memorial services or other patriotic events, as they were originally intended--free of charge. It is my hope that this action will occur before Veteran's Day.
Rep. Kathy Rapp