Our Patriotic Park

This Memorial Day, Fallsers remembered those who gave their lives for our freedom. Coming July 4th, an American celebration for the whole family. 

About 75 neighbors came out to McMichael Park this Memorial Day for a special ceremony honoring local veterans and celebrating new improvements to McMichael Park’s War Memorial. Big thanks to Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr who help provide funding for the restoration, including landscaping and re-pointing of the masonry (most of the work was completed this spring).

On Monday morning, a crowd gathered for a patriotic hour of remarks and music spearheaded by Christina Kistler (Midvale Ave) for the Friends of McMichael Park, who provided flags, Turtle cookies, and lemonade. Pat Lattanzio made a beautiful wreath with red, white, and blue flowers, which was placed on the memorial by Albert Lattanzio and Franz Ostertag. Friend’s president Alexis Franklin attended, along with Josh Cohen (Chief of Staff for Councilman Jones).

Father Robert Feeney, Christina Kistler, Commander Francis Sullivan, Josh Cohen

Veteran Joe Roe read the poem “John Armstrong” from the book East Falls 300 Years of History:

JOHN ARMSTRONG by Alexander Cox Chadwick  (1890 – 1957)

When patriots fought to free our land
From tyrant rules of George the Third
Along the Wissahickon banks
A military brush occurred.
Between the men of Washington
And Hessian hirelings of the crown,
Who aided Howe, the British chief,
To hold beleaguered Germantown.

John Armstrong, and his valiant band
Marched down “the Ridge” at dawn of day,
According to his leader’s plans,
Past Levering’s Inn, to start the fray
Above the old Vandeering mill;
Which one-time stood beside the stream;
And here, not far from Schuylkill’s foam,
Steep hills echoed the war-guns’ scream.

Those hardy men who spilled their blood,
That freedom might be our estate,
Have long since gone to their reward
Away from work and cares of state.
They help their Hessian foes afar
From Germantown, which was the plan
Which Washington had made, and so,
We proudly sing of Armstrong’s clan.

The vale is quiet, no sounds of war
Infringe upon the calmness there,
Where once the brazen cannon roared
Which teaches us a lesson, rare
That he who would pacific dwell,
Must always face some violent test,
Before the dreams of life come true,
The bring him peacefulness and rest.

John Roe (l), Commander Francis Sullivan (r)

Fallser, neighbor, and Annapolis alum Francis Sullivan (Commander, US Navy, retired) gave a moving speech (copied here in its entirety):

This is a day to pay tribute to heroic patriots fought for something greater than themselves, selflessly laying down their life for freedom.

We carry on a tradition dating back to the 1860s, embracing the feeling of patriotism and pride while honoring the most noble of us all.

This is a sacred day to all veterans: No veteran should need to be reminded of the reason that Memorial Day must be commemorated, but it is a duty of each and every one of us to relay the message to the general public that sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance.

All too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others that few of us actually knew. Think about the President’s famous Four Freedoms address in 1941: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Those freedoms are why the fallen are collectively remembered on one special day.

I think about two of my Naval Academy classmates as well as a man who’d graduated from my high school 15 years after I did:

Commander Bill Donovan was serving on the Navy staff when American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Greene was a Marine helicopter pilot who’d been recalled to active duty and shot down in Iraq on July 28, 2004 while providing cover for the casualty evacuation of critically-injured Marines and close air support to Marines on the ground.

Chief Petty Officer Brian Bill was a member of the Navy’s SEAL 6; he was one of 30 Americans and 8 Afghans (and a working dog) in a helicopter shot down by the Taliban on August 6, 2011 while attempting to reinforce an engaged unit of Army Rangers.

I had the opportunity to speak here about twenty years ago. At that time, I was a just-married active-duty Navy lieutenant, only a year or so after having served on a cruiser during the Persian Gulf War. It’s a different perspective now. I think about the many Gold Star families and what that must be like.

This is a national debt that can only be truly repaid by individual Americans. By honoring the nation’s war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their sacrifice in the memories of future generations. Men and women like those I mentioned came from all walks of life and all parts of the country. But they all had one thing in common—love of and loyalty to our country.

Today, America is commemorating those who made the greatest sacrifice possible—giving one’s own life on behalf of others.

Attending commemorative ceremonies like this is the most visible way of demonstrating remembrance: flags, parades, memorials and the like. These public displays of patriotism are essential if the notion of remembering our war dead is to be passed along to future generations.

As America’s older war veterans die and with a smaller military that in years past, there may be fewer and fewer left to pass along these kinds of remembrances. Such traditions will live on only if there is a vibrant movement to which a torch can be passed.

Now, more than ever in recent years, the enduring relevance of Memorial Day should be clearly evident. With 17 years of ongoing war, we have no excuse not to remember.

St. Bridget’s choir

Father Robert Feeney of St. Bridget’s church blessed and re-dedicated the monument. St. Bridget’s choir led the audience in singing some patriotic songs. Although the mood was appropriately solemn, many children and pets in attendance brought lightness and joy. And of course there was a lot of pride for our country and our community, as well.

Memorial Day at McMichael was such a success, neighbors are planning another patriotic day in the park! A fun, free East Falls’ Fourth of July celebration is set for Wednesday July 4th, 10am to noon.  Organized by Christina Kistler and Carla Lewandowski, this event will feature games and contests like “Best Dressed Dog” and “Most Patriotic Form of Transportation,” including prizes for the winners. Please come out for music, refreshments, and family-friendly good times for all.

Follow An East Falls 4th of July Celebration on Facebook for new details as things come together. To volunteer, PM the page or email editor@EastFallsLocal.com and we’ll give you a run down and hook you up with organizers.

Linda Norris, newly elected to the Democratic State Committee (7th Senatorial District)

 

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