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Longtime public military ceremony makes triumphant return to Evans City

Frank Morgan, who is helping revitalize the Evans City Memorial Day service, sits on a bench in the Evans City Cemetery, where the event will take place on Sunday, May 26. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

For longer than anyone can remember, a ceremony was held each Memorial Day weekend at the Evans City Cemetery to honor veterans of all wars who are buried there.

Dean McMillen, the longtime organizer of the event, died in 2018 and the Evans City American Legion closed two years ago, followed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Memorial Day service took the brunt of the unfortunate sequence of events.

“The American Legion in Evans City always put the Memorial Day service on,” said R.J. Volz, who is on the Evans City Cemetery Association board of directors. “We haven’t had a service up there since 2021.”

Enter Frank Morgan, who, like Volz, grew up in Evans City and remembers attending the Memorial Day service at the cemetery each year.

Volz said Morgan jumped in with both feet last Memorial Day and began planning a service for this year, which has resulted in the 2024 Evans City Cemetery Association Memorial Day Service.

The service

The event, which is open to the public, will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at the cemetery, 8600 Franklin Road, Evans City.

In the case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to Westminster United Presbyterian Church, 330 E. Main St., Evans City.

The Seneca Valley Reserve Officers’ Training Corps will present the colors to open the service.

Other participants will be local Boy Scout troop members, who will place a flag at each of the 1,200 veteran graves at the 44-acre cemetery; the sixth-grade band from Ehrman Crest Elementary School, which will play patriotic selections; the Butler County Honor Guard members, who will fire a gun salute; and others.

A roll call will be held in which veterans who have died since May 2021 will be named, and a drum roll will be performed for the naming of each war in which American soldiers and sailors served since the Revolutionary War.

The rally

The main speaker will be Commander Brad Davidson, U.S. Army, retired.

Davidson graduated from Seneca Valley Senior High School in 1989, the U.S. Naval Academy in 1993, and retired from the Navy in 2014.

Morgan, a 1995 Seneca Valley graduate, grew up with Davidson and considers him a family friend.

“I really wanted to get someone from the local community,” he said. “This is a community effort, so who better to speak than someone from the community?”

Morgan said he was happy to step in and, with Volz’s help, coordinate the historic ceremony at the cemetery.

“R.J. called and said ‘We’re going to do this,’ so I agreed to help,” he said.

Morgan said he met no resistance from any organization or person he asked to participate in the service.

“The response was an enthusiastic ‘yes,’” he said. “I personally think everyone in their busy lives still wants to take time to honor the veterans who have served.”

Morgan also appreciates the support of his manager, Scott Greene, marine and RV program manager at Truist Bank, of Greensboro, N.C.

Morgan works at home for the company, which provides loans to those looking to buy a boat or recreational vehicle.

“Truist encourages us to do this type of stuff and follow our passions and be a part of the community, not just on weekends and not just on our off time,” he said.

Volz, a 1987 Seneca Valley graduate who served in Junior ROTC in high school, remembers riding in the back of his father’s truck surrounded by hundreds of flags to be placed on the graves of the veterans in the Evans City Cemetery.

He recalled McMillen serving as a speaker, as well as his uncle, who had served in World War II, and an official from the county Veterans Affairs office.

Volz said only about six or seven World War II veterans are still living in and around Evans City, and the Korean War veterans are aging as well.

“I’m not a veteran, but it’s hard to emphasize the sacrifice of their lives and family time of the veterans when they are abroad,” he said.

Volz has been mulching, planting flowers and otherwise sprucing up the cemetery all week in anticipation of the Memorial Day service on Sunday.

“It is a moment in time when people can stop and pause and give remembrance and respect to those who have served our country,” Morgan said.

Those planning to attend should bring a chair.

Frank Morgan, coordinator of the Evans City Memorial Day service, cleans off his grandfather's gravestone in the Evans City Cemetery, where the service will take place Sunday, May 26. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Frank Morgan, coordinator of the Evans City Memorial Day service, straightens the flag at his grandfather's grave in the Evans City Cemetery, where the service will take place Sunday, May 26. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Frank Morgan, coordinator of the Evans City Memorial Day service, straightens the flag at his grandfather's grave in the Evans City Cemetery, where the service will take place Sunday, May 26. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The Evans City Memorial Day service will return to the Evans City Cemetery on Sunday, May 26, after a two-year hiatus. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Frank Morgan, coordinator of the Evans City Memorial Day service, poses at a veterans memorial in the Evans City Cemetery, where the event will take place Sunday, May 26. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Flags fly over the graves of veterans in the Evans City Cemetery, where the traditional Memorial Day service will be held Sunday, May 26, after a two-year hiatus. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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