GORDON — Jack Stitzer, 90, hopped on board an antique fire engine in his hometown of Gordon and prepared for the ride of his life as the Grand Marshal of the borough’s Memorial Day Parade.
“These people in town really do appreciate us. I’m sure of that,” said Stitzer, a World War II veteran
“World War II veterans are getting rarer and rarer,” said Gordon volunteer firefighter Dan Hepler, who helped organized the parade. “We really want to show our honor and appreciation to all of them, and to have one from Gordon, that really means a lot to us.”
The honor of being the Grand Marshal of this parade meant everything to Jack Stitzer.
“This is really nice. I appreciate everything they’re doing here,” he said while waving to his neighbors during the parade.
It’s partly because his great-granddaughters marched behind him with the youth softball league.
It’s partly because he could see the appreciation from his neighbors in
Gordon as the parade passed.
But at times, Jack just felt like a survivor.
He thought of the men he fought against Germany during the Battle of the Bulge in Europe near the end of the war. Jack wished they could be in Gordon and ride beside him.
“I think of them a lot, and what we went through and everything,” said Jack.
As he neared the end of the parade route, he also thought of the 63 young men from Gordon and Ashland who answered the call to fight in World War II. Only he and his friend Bruce Mervine are still living.
“And I think of all the guys that left here, and how many never came back,” said Jack Stitzer as he fought back tears. “I was one of the lucky few.”
Jack also remembers a Memorial Day from his childhood.
His grandfather took him to an observance in Gettysburg where he met aging veterans of the Civil War.
Almost 80 years later, people in Gordon are paying a similar tribute to him.