Parades And Tributes Honor Local Veterans A Time To Mark War With Remembrance.

Posted: May 28, 2000

Across the region yesterday, veterans of America's wars were remembered in Memorial Day parades and solemn ceremonies with flags, patriotic songs and poignant tributes.

A light rain held down the size of the crowds, but spirits were high at activities beginning the three-day holiday weekend. More events are scheduled for today and tomorrow.

In Philadelphia, about 25 people gathered at Lloyd Hall yesterday afternoon, where folksinger Saul Broudy, a Vietnam veteran, played guitar and performed songs collected from helicopter pilots during his tour of duty in 1966-67.

Broudy, 57, of Philadelphia, said the folk songs - some filled with humor and parody - have added meaning because they were written by those who served.

"If you're going to have a Memorial Day, it should maintain some of its original meaning," he said in an interview. "It's important to remember our war dead."

That sentiment was echoed yesterday by veterans and their families at ceremonies across the area.

About 3,000 people attended an observance at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery in North Hanover, Burlington County.

Among them was Kitty Waldner, who had airbrushed a stars-and-stripes pattern onto her fingernails for the occasion. Waldner, 31, has traveled from Edison Township, Middlesex County, on Memorial Day for the last three years to visit the grave of her father, Navy veteran Richard F. Stryker.

This year, she made the trip with her family in her father's 1966 Chevrolet pickup. She said the day was a perfect time to begin teaching her daughters, ages 3 and 1, about the holiday. "It's a good day for awakening and remembrance," Waldner said.

Gov. Whitman spoke at yesterday's 90-minute ceremony, which ended with a flyover of four F-16s from the New Jersey Air National Guard.

The ceremony was the first of five this weekend for several veterans from Burlington County's American Legion.

The veterans said the crowds and patriotism seem to diminish every year, with more people choosing to barbecue or trek to the Jersey Shore. This year, the weather may have kept people away, they said.

"That wasn't a factor for us when we were in foxholes," said Joe Johnston, 75, of Edgewater Park, a retired Army brigadier general who was held captive for three years in Vietnam.

In Bucks County, Penndel - a community of about 2,700 - honored its veterans with a parade and memorial service.

Local dignitaries watched from a tractor-trailer bed as antique cars, fire engines, marching bands and local veterans marched down tree-lined Hulmeville Avenue. Residents in lawn chairs cheered as friends and family passed by.

At the nearby Penndel Memorial Post, the lawn was dotted with small American flags, as well as a single Star of David and 94 wooden white crosses that bore the names of residents killed in war.

"I think people do think about the real reason we're out here - the soldiers," said resident Ed Preston, adding, "I know I do."

At Washington Crossing Historic Park, dozens of reenactors began a weekend encampment in the park that depicted the lives of Revolutionary War soldiers.

"I've always done this because I feel we can never forget these men - what they put up with, what they went through," said Ted Weitzel of Robinsville, N.J., leaning on his musket and wearing the garb of a corporal in Gen. George Washington's guard. "I'd like to get more people out here, get them to remember what these men did."

At West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Lower Merion Township, Vietnam veteran Ron Jordan was remembering his own experiences and those of his dead brother James.

Jordan, who lives in a suburb of Baltimore, detoured from a trip to Boston yesterday to visit his brother's grave.

"There's not much I'd like to say publicly, except for that I hope everybody stops to remember their lost brothers or fathers or sisters this weekend," Jordan said.

Other Memorial Day observances will be held throughout the weekend.

In Philadelphia, the Daughters of the American Revolution will unveil a plaque tomorrow in Washington Square honoring U.S. Ambassador Thomas M. Foglietta.

It will mark the first time that the city has given its approval for a plaque honoring a living person, according to organizers. Foglietta, a former congressman, is ambassador to Italy.

About 30 seventh-graders from St. Francis de Sales Elementary School in West Philadelphia distributed 100 posters around the city calling for a "National Moment of Remembrance" at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

The posters ask people to set aside a moment to remember all veterans by pausing silently, placing their right hand over their hearts, turning on their car headlights, or stopping to reflect.

"The idea is to put the remembrance back into Memorial Day," school principal Sister Constance Marie said yesterday. "It's a reminder that the reason we have the holiday is because so many died for our freedom."

In Lower Merion Township, a community picnic tomorrow will cap a monthlong centennial celebration. The festivities begin at 6 p.m. and include a concert and fireworks.

Parades will be held tomorrow in Bensalem, Bristol Township, Bristol Borough, Langhorne, Warminster and Yardley. Services are scheduled tomorrow in Middletown and Upper Southampton.

Melanie Burney's e-mail address is mburney@phillynews.com

* Inquirer suburban staff writers Marc Levy and Patrick Kerkstra contributed to this report.

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