Many people just look at Memorial Day as a three day weekend.
Retired Altoona Police Chief and Vietnam veteran Pete Starr, who served in the U.S. Navy, doesn't look at it that way.
"I look at it as a day of recognition to honor our deceased war veterans, their sacrifice, those who gave their lives for their country," Starr said Sunday during a Memorial Day program at Alto-Reste Park Cemetery.
Captain Brad Germaux of the Jaffa Mounted Patrol leads the riderless horse tribute through Alto Reste Park Cemetery with the James L. Noble VFW Post 3 Color Guard on Sunday.
The men and women who served and gave their lives are the true heroes - not sports stars,' Starr said.
"A hero is someone who is willing to make great sacrifices in perilous times for the benefit of others. Sports figures are not heroes and heroines, they don't make a lot of sacrifices for you or I," Starr said. "Our honorees set aside their dreams of the future for our benefit. Those heroes gave their lives for our country and other countries. Take the time to know those who have made the supreme sacrifice for us."
Starr said because of our veterans Americans enjoy many freedoms - such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the freedom to vote .
"It is my personal opinion that when you don't exercise your right to vote you are desecrating their graves," Starr said.
Since the birth of our country more than 45 million Americans have served in the Armed Forces and more than two million died in that uniform, Starr said.
"These are the true heroes and heroines that we honor today," Starr said. "These are the men and women who made it possible for us to be here today."
The program also included patriotic music recognizing all branches of the services, a release of doves representing each branch of service, a gun salute by members of James L. Noble VFW Post 3 and taps played by state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair.
In his benediction, Pastor Hud Crossman of Fields of Harvest Fellowship, Altoona, said he had received a letter from Daniel Lightner about eight years ago.
"He said if you are reading this I am probably already dead. He said he died for God and country and would do it again in heartbeat," Crossman said.
National Guard Staff Sgt. Daniel R. Lightner Jr., a native of Hollidaysburg, was killed in Iraq in 2005.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.