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Hundreds Gather to Remember Fallen Pennsylvania Soldiers

by on May 17, 2015 4:30 PM

The boom of the cannon echoed through the air and the smoke slowly rose over the crowd gathered at the Pennsylvania Military Museum.

Hundreds were there to memorialize the fallen members of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry "Iron" Division of the National Guard, America's oldest division, dating back to 1879.

Major General James R. Joseph addressed the crowd during the annual memorial service, explaining the importance of the museum and the remembrance of soldiers who passed away. 

"This place and this ceremony exemplify the service that Pennsylvanians of every generation have performed for our country," Joseph says. "This memorial service also carries the patriotism of our commonwealth citizens. It is through the support of our fellow Pennsylvanians that we are able to succeed in every mission we are called upon."

That support was loud and clear on Sunday afternoon, as fellow military members, family, friends, and supporters viewed a succinct yet touching ceremony.

For Joseph, it was an opportunity to honor an infantry division that has done a great service to both Pennsylvania and the entire nation through the years, from labor disturbances at the turn of the 20th century, to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, to overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"No other U.S. division has as rich a history of consistently outstanding performance during both domestic operations and overseas deployment, but this history hasn’t come without a cost," Joseph says. "The names of the fallen are written on the wall behind you. They are written on the names of the dog tags that swing in the breeze in the obelisk to your left. Those names and the lives they symbolize are the reason we gather here year after year."

Dan Thomas Jr. was at Sunday's service in support of his brother, who was killed by a rocket attack in Baghdad eight years ago. Master Sergeant Sean Thomas was a Hughsville, Pa. native and Penn State alumnus. He returned home for the birth of his daughter just weeks before his death.

"It’s good that we honor all the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice," Dan Thomas says. "We got to bring Sean’s daughter with us today. It just lets us think about everything that happened over there and the sacrifice everyone makes when they go over there."

Thomas and his family have honored Sean by starting a foundation in his name, which donates 100 percent of the money raised to soldiers in need and scholarships near his former high school. While the foundation allows Sean's legacy to live on, his family also attends the memorial service each year to connect with families who have faced the same challenge of grieving a fallen soldier.

"I have not missed one year of this service since 2007, two months after he passed away," Dan Thomas says. "I’ve been here every year since."

"It’s just nice seeing the other families who have gone through the same thing and knowing you’re not the only one," he adds. "Every year you see new faces and you realize they’ve gone through the same thing. You just need to respect what they’ve done for our country and move on and just remember the legacy they’ve left behind."



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Photo Gallery - Iron Division Memorial Service

Zach Berger is the managing editor of He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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