Joulwan, O’Reilly Commemorate Memorial Day 2021 in Pottsville
Two of Pottsville’s most decorated military members helped the city remember those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice at the 2021 Memorial Day parade and ceremony Monday.
US Army (Ret.) Gen. George Joulwan and US Navy Cmdr. Michael O’Reilly shared the spotlight for the event held in the city’s Garfield Square. Hundreds turned out for the parade and remembrance held afterward.
Last year’s public event was canceled due to pandemic restrictions so the city invited both Joulwan and O’Reilly to this year’s event, making for a star-studded ceremony.
Joulwan is, among his many accomplishments in uniform, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces from 1993-1997 and a retired four-star general in the US Army. O’Reilly was most recently the Commanding Officer of the USS Gravely.
“It’s great to be back in Pottsville,” Joulwan said during his remarks. “It’s great to be home.”
O’Reilly said his appearance this year at Pottsville’s Memorial Day ceremony was essentially the third-time charm. He was first asked in 2019 but couldn’t attend due to his service at sea. Last year’s event – again, he was invited – was canceled due to the pandemic.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” O’Reilly told the crowd Monday. “I want to say a personal Thank You to this city and this community for giving me the tools and the values that I have found so valuable through 20 years in the Navy. I grew up in a town that raised me right.”
He took time during his speech to thank frontline workers for their efforts against the COVID virus and noted that this year’s Memorial Day events likely are the first public event many had attended in more than a year.
“The fact that we’re able to gather here today is a sign of tremendous progress thanks, very much in part, to the efforts of selfless and brave citizens throughout the community,” he said. “You’ve certainly broadened my perspective, and I’m confident of many others, on what it means to serve.”
The ceremony at Garfield Square in Pottsville was preceded by a short parade led by the two guests of honor, the Pottsville Area High School marching band, majorettes, and flag team, the city’s Third Brigade Band, and a number of emergency vehicles.
Joulwan Pleads for Unity at Pottsville Memorial Day Ceremony
During Joulwan’s remarks at Garfield Square Monday, he expressed his concern over the seeming lack of unity among Americans right now. Politics may be polarizing citizens now more than almost any other time in our nation’s history.
“I am concerned that there’s too much hatred going on in this country today,” he said. “And it’s going to take leadership in towns like Pottsville, that we are one people, that we do so under God, that it’s unity and it’s freedom. That’s what we live for.”
But despite our differences, he said, we must fight for a common cause … the United States of America.
“I think it is important that we are one country, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” Joulwan said, choking up on his words.
“That is an important theme. We must remember that. Every generation of Americans must remember that,” he added. “We are one America, one people, one team, one fight for what we know is right. We fight for freedom. We fight for unity. And nowhere is that more important than here in the United States.”
Joulwan says each generation of Americans must accept the torch, as it’s passed from the past, of defending freedom and our way of life here in the US.
“We stand up and are counted. I would hope that all of you young people here, as we go forward, will have that message in you that we will not stand up for the sort of thing that happened in Lincoln’s time or today,” he said. “This is the land of the free, the home of the brave, and Gold bless America.”
O’Reilly Reminded of Combat Sacrifices Daily
O’Reilly left Pottsville in 1997 to begin his decorated military career. And, during his speech on Monday, he told those in his hometown that every day since, he’s been reminded of the sacrifices of Americans every day.
Every ship on which he’s served – through his time on the USS Cole – is named after either someone who was killed in action or a conflict in which Americans gave up their lives defending their country and its way of life.
“These ships and many others in the US fleet are some of the most combat-capable ships in the world. At the same time, they are living, breathing reminders of these brave service members and the battles in which they fought and died,” O’Reilly said. “Serving aboard these ships, I was provided with a daily reminder of their sacrifice. It continues to give me a daily appreciation and understanding of the cost of the freedom which we enjoy here in America.”
He also said that while working at The Pentagon, serving on the Chief Naval Operations staff, he would walk by the memorial there honoring those who died during the terrorist attack on the building on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It gave me perspective every day,” O’Reilly said.
Pottsville Memorial Day 2021 Parade and Ceremony