PENNDEL >> The community gathered at the Penndel Ball Fields on Memorial Day weekend to send a message of sacrifice, remembrance and gratitude to the future.
During a ceremony following the annual Penndel-Hulmeville Memorial Day Parade on Saturday, leaders of the committee that brought the Traveling Vietnam Wall here in 2017 lowered a time capsule into the ground as a solemn reminder of what took place during the Wall’s visit to Penndel.
“The men and women who gave their lives during the Vietnam War – most notably the 136 from Bucks County – deserve to be remembered by future generations,” said Ed Preston, chairman of The Wall in Bucks County and the Penndel-Hulmeville Memorial Day Parade. “Our goal in preserving these artifacts is to keep alive the memories and deeds of our Vietnam warriors.
“For those of us who worked on the Wall project for quite a long time, the memories are strong, they are daily and they are meaningful,” said Preston.
“I have a memory of my brother David doing a rubbing on the Wall as he spoke to a gentleman he was doing a rubbing for. He wanted every rubbing to be perfect so he talked to that man to make it perfect. Another gentleman who had worn an MIA bracelet for 47 years asked if he could place it with his friend.
“Those things are in that time capsule for our future generations to remember their sacrifice and why we have Memorial Day,” said Preston. “The Vietnam veterans were not the heroes they should have been. But they were. We are going to ensure that they will be recognized and remembered when that capsule is opened.”
Also inside the capsule are pictures, a uniform, notes, a Purple Heart, infantry insignia, obituaries, a baby’s pacifier, flowers, written memories, flags and MIA bracelets, all cherished and very personal items left at the base of the Wall.
By a resolution of the Penndel Borough Council, the capsule will be reopened on the 100th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War on April 15, 2075 when the residents of Penndel and Hulmeville will remember and take a journey back to 2017 and the summer the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall - a replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., came to town.
“Fifty years ago many of us standing here today were in Vietnam. Others during that time not sure who was going to get their orders next,” said Vietnam veteran Ed Horan, the commander of the Marine Corps League Detachment in Southampton.
The Wall’s visit last year, he said, transformed the ball fields into a quiet, peaceful place that unlocked memories and promoted healing.
“Many arrived to view the traveling wall, but I would like to think of it as the moving wall. The wall touched so many,” he said. “We watched as they placed items at the base of the wall. Each person had their own reason - a loved one, a friend, a high school acquaintance. Something moved them to be here ... Each day tears flowed, stories told, hand shakes and hugs were numerous. Small groups gathered in the field. Memories came back, some hidden for decades.”
He spoke emotionally about his brother, a fellow Marine who also served in Vietnam, who waited across the street for a half an hour before approaching the Wall.
“He slowly moved his way down the wall looking at all the rows of names finally reaching the end and collecting his thoughts. I waited until he came to the middle to ask if he was okay. He said no. He couldn’t find one person. So we looked up a name and we found it for him.”
Upwards of 25,000 people visited the Wall during its three days in Penndel, serving as a source of healing for veterans and families and friends of service members.
Among the visitors was State Senator Robert Tomlinson who personally knew 10 of the names inscribed on The Wall.
“That Wall is about healing the wound that we had festering since the Vietnam War ended, when we didn’t celebrate that soldier when he came home, when we blamed the soldier for doing his job. That was a very sad time and it was important that we healed that. Now we celebrate those veterans, celebrate those veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said, thanking the committee for bringing the moving tribute of the Vietnam era to Bucks County.
“By bringing that Wall here, by putting this time capsule here we celebrate those veterans who fought for this country, who fought for that human spirit that we all so enjoy.”
During earlier remarks delivered during the annual Memorial Day ceremony, Tomlinson spoke about the meaning of the events taking place in communities across the nation this weekend.
“This is not about celebrating a war. It’s not about celebrating a battle. It’s not about celebrating a conflict and turmoil. It’s about remembering and celebrating those who gave us their ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
Tomlinson remembered as a little boy decorating his bicycle with streamers and waving flags. “But I didn’t have a clue about what was going on. And as I ride through the parade today and look at the kids scrambling for candy, screaming and having I great time, I think they might not know today what this is all about but they will when they get older.
“Today we remember those who went off, fought for our freedom and lost their lives,” he said. “Today, we remember the veterans who didn’t get to come home. It’s about their sacrifice that we stop and pause. And then we go have our hot dogs and our hamburgers, our picnics and enjoy each other and celebrate this great country. There is no greater tribute to those veterans we lost than by celebrating this country.”
The ceremony followed the annual Penndel-Hulmeville Memorial Day Parade which stepped off Saturday morning beneath partly sunny skies.
Applause filled the air along Bellevue Avenue as members of the Penndel American Legion led the march from Hulmeville to the ball fields in Penndel Borough.
More applause greeted a caravan of cars carrying veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
A U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard proudly marched down the street carrying the flag of the nation followed by the All Division Detachment of the Marine Corps League and the Tri-County Band.
Politicians from Penndel and Hulmeville boroughs waved to the crowds from a lineup of vehicles as U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick walked the route shaking hands along the way. Also riding by were State Senator Tomlinson, State Rep. Tina Davis and District Judge the Hon. Daniel Baranoski.
The Uptown String Band strutted the route performing patriotic favorites including “This Land Is Your Land.” The band Big Whiskey rode by belting out the song, “We’re An American Band.”
Teams of Wildcats joined the parade. So did Scouts from Penndel and Levittown. Members of the Redeemer Lutheran Church rode by singing patriotic hymns.
Also joining the parade were the Daisy Jug Band, the Andalusia Jug Band, the Nashville Cats, the Penndel Rescue Squad and Fire companies from Penndel, William Penn, Parkland, Langhorne-Middletown and Eddington.