Sunday • May 11, 2003

The musicians playing the prelude. My brother, Pete, is playing the saxaphone.
Earl Fahnestock is playing trumpet. CW04 Patrick C. DeChirico USMC (Ret),
Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment USS New Jersey, is in the background.

 

Caroline Fuller Jackson and Pete and Tom (Schroeder) Souders

Paul Schroeder's great-grandchildren, Robert & Christine with their
Mother, Susan, displaying the pictures of the Servicemen killed in Iraq
and the displays of the Bunker Hill.

 

The Battleship New Jersey is permanantly anchored off Camden, New Jersey. This ship and crew has a long and illustrious history including 48 years of service in every part of the world. It is open for tours (about two hours each!) during daylight hours. It is also a fitting place for Memorial Services.

Last year, when I finally learned through AWON that there were Services for the Bunker Hill's terrible loss on 11 MAY 1945, I asked for the "day off" (a Sunday in 2003) so as to be able to attend the Service in New England. After the Church Consistory granted the request, I tried to pin down the place. (My longsuffering and patient wife suggested that I might want to make sure there would be a Service this year; before asking the Church to find a replacement Pastor and Organist.) So it happened that there was not to be a Service on the 11th at St. Barbara's Church.

When something is anticipated, and planned for, it is difficult to give up the idea. We children never had any Service. Our father was KIA and buried at Sea. The Telegram came on June 28th. All these years, in addition to the "Wall of Silence" there has been that missing Service. I have conducted many Funerals, and some for Servicemen, and here is this hole in my own history.

So it was that the Battleship New Jersey graciously agreed to have us on board on the 11th of May at 11 A.M. for a Memorial Service for the Sailors lost on the Bunker Hill on the 11th and 12th of May, 1945. There was a violent storm watch, including a tornado watch, that day. The sky was overcast and ominous as we boarded the Battleship. The Trumpeter joined with my brother, Pete, for the Prelude of various hymn tunes. Then the Service began with the Colors and Rifle Squad marching from amidship toward their place near the Bow. We pledged our Allegiance and recognized the casualities of the Iraq War along with the Bunker Hill's Crew who made the Supreme Sacrifice. Family members, Fire Company members, and Legion representatives were in attendance. Caroline Fuller Jackson, an AWON member, made a touching speech. Two retired Sailors from my Fire Company threw the Wreath into the Delaware and the detachment from the Willow Grove Naval Air Station did the Rifle Salute.

Taps, ever mournful and yet triumphant, concluded our Ceremony. It was 58 years late; and it was a time set apart to remember and honor those who paid such a great price for us.

The photos were provided by Tom Schroeder , with thanks!