Sisters Mary Miller, 75, and Beverly Harvey, 71, sat on lawn chairs in the shade at the 56th annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium. The sun shone and a gentle breeze blew through the crowd of about 900 gathered at the Circle of the Immortals monument to Marylanders killed in action.

“I love this,” Miller said, smiling and gesturing at the crowd sitting quietly on the hillside, amongst trees and under tents, as local military officials spoke and bands and musicians played to honor deceased servicemembers.

Miller and Harvey — who were both raised in Perry Hall and still live in the area — come from a family with a long legacy of military service. Their father and two of his brothers fought in World War II, and their brother retired from the military after 24 years of service. Their parents are buried in the cemetery’s six-and-a-half acre Field of Honor for servicemembers and their spouses that surrounds the monument.

The sisters say their father, James “Leslie” Harvey, was one of nine children, seven of whom served in the military. Their father was “so proud” of his service, and viewed it as a way to help others, she said, instilling these values in his children. Miller and two of her brothers embraced this purpose when they became the first Black children to integrate Baltimore County Schools in 1956 at Perry Hall Elementary, Miller said.

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Many in the ceremony crowd wore red, white, and blue, while veterans could be picked out by their hats proudly displaying military branches and wars fought — Vietnam, for most. Many dogs in attendance appeared in military or patriotic apparel as well.

Robert McCurdy plays the bagpipes during the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens Memorial Day Ceremony on May 29, 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Former Marine and Director of the Silver Spring Veteran’s Center Corporal Wayne L. Miller, who was wounded in Vietnam, noted in the Memorial Address that today marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the “10,000 day war,” when the last U.S. troops left Vietnam and the final group of American prisoners of war were freed. Fifty-eight thousand two hundred and twenty servicemembers were killed in Vietnam, he said, and 1.3 million total have died in wars since the U.S. was founded.

Miller said the true meaning of Memorial Day is often lost in the revelry occasioned by the unofficial beginning of summer. Customary celebrations like barbeques and boat trips are “a debt purchased by others” who fought to defend the nation and preserve the freedoms of its people, he said.

Scenes from the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens Memorial Day Ceremony on May 29, 2023. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

What does it mean to say “Happy Memorial Day?” Miller asked. “We can celebrate the lives of people we lost,” he said, but “it is certainly not ‘happy.’”

At the end of the ceremony, Miller read names and biographies of the Marylanders in the military who died over the last year, as well as three servicemembers — two who served in World War II and one in the Korean War — whose remains were identified just recently through DNA. Family members of those recognized were presented with a plaque honoring the fallen servicemember.

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Two of these family members were Sharlene DeLauter and Sue Draper, daughters of Army Sargeant Roy “Buddy” DeLauter of Smithsburg. DeLauter’s daughter Sharlene was only three when her father was reported killed in the Korean War, after his unit was attacked on December 1, 1950, as they attempted to withdraw near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. His remains could not be recovered.

In 2018, North Korea turned over the remains of some American soldiers killed in the Korean war. About ten years prior, Sharlene DeLauter, now a retired nurse, had drawn blood from two of her father’s sisters for the military to keep “on file” so that the elder DeLauter’s remains could be identified in case they were ever recovered. Three of DeLauter’s sisters — including the two who gave their blood — are now in their 90s, the only surviving siblings of a family of six children.

In January 2022, the family received word that DeLauter’s remains had been identified after extensive forensic analysis by a Defense laboratory.

It was “really emotional,” getting the news, Sharlene DeLauter said; “we were so overwhelmed with joy.”

On April 22, 2022, seventy-two years after his death, Roy DeLauter, age 21, was laid to rest in his hometown.

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This story was updated.

sarah.true@thebaltimorebanner.com

Sarah True was a public health reporter for the Baltimore Banner. She previously worked as a freelance journalist covering healthcare and health policy, and has been both a medical social worker and a health policy analyst in a past life. She holds dual Master’s degrees in public health and social work. 

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