Northeast Times

A day to remember

The Lawn­crest Com­munity As­so­ci­ation cel­eb­rated Vet­er­ans Day on Sunday morn­ing with a ce­re­mony in the grove at Lawn­crest Re­cre­ation Cen­ter.

The grove fea­tures stone me­mori­als to vet­er­ans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vi­et­nam War.

About 60 vo­lun­teers re­moved 74 bags of leaves and oth­er debris the day be­fore the fourth an­nu­al ce­re­mony.

Mu­ni­cip­al Court Judge Pat Dugan, a vet­er­an of the wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan, told the crowd that all war and peace­time vet­er­ans de­serve equal re­spect. When they signed up, he noted, most didn’t know wheth­er they’d be serving in Fal­lu­jah or Fort Dix, Somalia or San Diego.

Sui­cide rates are high among vet­er­ans, Dugan said, adding that he thinks all com­bat vet­er­ans are dif­fer­ent when they come back. Some can handle the bur­den, oth­ers struggle with it.

Dugan presides over the city’s Vet­er­ans Court, deal­ing with vets who have found them­selves in the crim­in­al justice sys­tem. He tries to point them to U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs be­ne­fits and ser­vices — med­ic­al, edu­ca­tion­al, etc. — to put them on the path to be­com­ing pro­duct­ive cit­izens.

Data shows that Vet­er­ans Court has helped lower the re­cidiv­ism rate.

Dugan re­called how there were parades for re­turn­ing World War II vet­er­ans. 

As for vet­er­ans of the Korean and Vi­et­nam wars, Dugan gave them spe­cial re­cog­ni­tion dur­ing his re­marks, con­tend­ing that they were largely ig­nored after com­ing home.

Today, Dugan is buoyed when he sees or hears of Amer­ic­ans hug­ging Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan war vets in air­ports and of­fer­ing to buy them a drink or a meal.

“God bless Amer­ica,” he said.

The ce­re­mony was or­gan­ized by Kathy Wer­sing­er, a neigh­bor­hood res­id­ent and aide to City Coun­cil­wo­man Mari­an Tasco.

Coun­cil­man Dav­id Oh read a res­ol­u­tion he co-sponsored with Tasco, present­ing it to Cliff Jef­fries, head of the United Vet­er­ans Coun­cil of Phil­adelphia. A bag­piper played mil­it­ary hymns and pat­ri­ot­ic mu­sic.

The day also in­cluded an Amer­ic­an flag rais­ing, wreath lay­ings, pray­er, a poem and an empty table, sym­bol­iz­ing Pris­on­ers of War/Miss­ing in Ac­tion.

NiL­iza John­son, a fifth-grader at Ben­jamin Frank­lin Ele­ment­ary School, read her win­ning es­say. The con­test asked stu­dents to write on the sub­ject, “Are You Proud of Your Coun­try?” Oth­er win­ners were Ju­lia Chi­ango and Kylie Gib­son, of Ta­cony Academy Charter High School. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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