The Main Line Times
A Bryn Mawr couple is honoring those who serve both on the home front and war front.
Sponsored by Stephen and Sandy Sheller, “Civilian in Peace/Soldier in War” is part of Philadelphia’s National Liberty Museum’s third-floor “Awards of Valor” gallery.
According to the museum’s Jan Griesemer, the permanent display honoring the Pennsylvania Guard is the only such exhibit in the state.
“We felt that these people needed to be recognized,” Sandy Sheller said about those who serve in the state National Guard.
The exhibit includes an informational board and a reproduction of a “Franklin Flag.” The flag was created by Benjamin Franklin in 1776 when the young nation had no official national flag and American warships were mistaken for pirate vessels by its allies during the Revolutionary War. Franklin had the flag, which includes 13 stars and 13 red, white and blue stripes, made and sent to Continental Navy Captain John Paul Jones, who displayed it from the captured British frigate Serapis and other ships.
Today only the 111th Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard is authorized to carry this flag.
The regiment can trace its history directly to Franklin’s Philadelphia militia started in 1747 as the state’s first official defense force and composed of “gentlemen and merchants.”
The Shellers have personal connections to the National Guard. Sandy’s aunt’s brother served in the Pennsylvania National Guard as a major and was a pilot during the Korean War. His B-29 was shot down by the Russians during the conflict and he was captured as a POW. He was never heard from again. His valor in service earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The couple is also an acquaintance of Jerry Beck, brigadier general and adjunct general of the Pennsylvania Guard. He served as deputy commander of the American and multi-national forces in Bosnia and commander of American and multi-national forces in Kosovo earlier in the decade.
“It is a great thing to get the word out about the Guard,” the general said about the couple’s efforts during an interview this week from his office in Indiantown Gap. “We’re not the Guard of the ’70s and ’80s.”
He noted that today’s Pennsylvania Guard is activated not just for domestic duty but for foreign operational missions.
The couple is also friends with Col. Carol Eggert, an Exton resident and mother, who has just returned to Chester County after a tour of duty with the Guard in Iraq, including being stationed at the American embassy there, according to Stephen, who is the founding partner of Sheller, P.C. of Center City. Eggert, who served as chief of staff of the 28th Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard before overseas deployment, was hurt in September by a bomb while her vehicle was passing a checkpoint. She received the Purple Heart.
“People don’t realize how important they (the Pennsylvania National Guard) are to the War on Terrorism and how many times the Guard has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Stephen.
He pointed out that the state National Guard has sustained more casualties than any other state’s Guard during service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The recent unveiling ceremony of the exhibit included an appearance by Gov. Ed Rendell and many officers, including generals, and personnel from the state’s Air and Army National Guard, including Philadelphia’s 111th Regiment and First City Troop.
More than 4,000 Pennsylvania National Guardsmen were mobilized and sent to Iraq as part of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The Guard’s combat deployment was the largest in state history and the only Guard involved with seven Army Stryker units.
“They’re citizen-soldiers,” explained Stephen, “ordinary citizens” such as merchants, police officers and firefighters with extraordinary courage serving in harm’s way at home and abroad.
For museum times and information, visit the National Liberty Museum Website at www.libertymuseum.org or phone 215-925-2800. The museum is at 321 Chestnut St., Philadelphia.
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