05/31/2006

3-shot salute to veterans draws Pa. trooper to church

Cindy Stauffer, New Era Staff Writer
Copyright 2006 Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. 
Lancaster, PA 
 
It was meant to be a stirring church service tribute to our nation's veterans on Memorial Day weekend.

But when a Caernarvon Township church's member stepped outside Sunday morning to fire off a three-volley salute - with blanks - a neighbor heard the shots, saw the man with the shotgun and promptly called police.

About 15 minutes later, the Rev. F. Kenneth Hoffer was up in the pulpit, reading names from his congregation's prayer list, when he saw a state police trooper standing in the vestibule of the Mt. Culmen Evangelical Congregational Church.

"I just kept right on going," Hoffer said, particularly after he saw the man who fired the salute slip out to talk to the trooper from the Ephrata barracks and straighten everything out. No one was cited.

Hoffer said his small congregation has had the same type of Memorial Day service for about four years now at its Turkey Hill Road parish.

The service features two tape-recorded playings of "Taps," both inside and outside the church, and the fired salute, done by a man standing alongside the church's cemetery. Church members sit inside, with the windows thrown open, during the tribute.

"We're out in the country," Hoffer said, as a way of explanation. "We couldn't do this in the city or in a town."

Still, when Hoffer saw the uniformed trooper standing in the vestibule, he said, "Something told me that there was some kind of complaint that had to do with that."

Hoffer, 78, a U.S. Navy veteran himself, feels strongly about Memorial Day and about paying tribute to veterans.

Five of the 47 people sitting in his pews Sunday morning were veterans, he noted proudly. His wife, Anna, had a brother, Daniel Snyder, who was killed in October 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge.

And today, Hoffer planned to speak at a cemetery in Shillington, Berks County, on the topic, "Freedom Isn't Free."

But he said he will rethink the church's traditional Memorial Day ceremony next year.

"It was a lovely service. I would do it again, but I would probably tell the neighbors," he said, adding, "We don't have that many." 
 
May 30, 2006

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