Bravo, Lansdale! For a small town, you celebrate in an incredibly big way.
As a former soldier in the United States Army, I was admittedly curious of what the borough had in store for Memorial Day. My curiosity quickly turned to astonishment as residents moved en masse from the parade route to Memorial Park for a ceremony honoring the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, past and present.
Those who answer the call of duty have always held a special place in my heart. The selflessness and humility, the bravery and the courage, and the will and the sacrifice had humbled me at an early age, leaving me wanting nothing more than to give back to those who had given so much of themselves, all in the name of freedom.
To be surrounded by so many honorable men and women, young and old, who were willing to give their own lives to preserve those of others was an experience I won't soon forget.
From a stage decorated with numerous American flags, which were carried through the parade by the local Boy Scout troop, Fairmount Fire Chief Jay Daveler addressed the crowd, welcomed them for attending, and reminded everyone why they were there.
"As we gather here today, on this day of remembrance, the men and women of our armed forces are fighting and sacrificing their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Daveler. "Today, we honor these brave men and women who serve in our Armed Forces, so we can continue to live in this great country of freedom."
After Daveler finished his introduction, Monsignor Joseph Tracy of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church gave the ceremonial invocation.
"These men and women were strong and courageous, and today we pray that they have found peace, in the loving embrace of God," said Tracy. "Keep us mindful of their sacrifices, and let us never take them for granted. Thank you for the gift of freedom, and for the people who keep us free."
As the ceremony marched along, the North Penn High School Band and Choir provided a fitting musical backdrop, as the names of Lansdale's fallen sons and daughters were read aloud, while a group of children placed a single flower at the base of the memorial for each loss the borough has suffered.
Surrounded by public safety officials and borough council members, Lansdale Mayor Andy Szekely took to the podium, delivering an humbling and memorable speech.
"This is how Memorial Day should be observed in a small town," said Szekely. "As I look out into the crowd, I am truly humbled by the sight of everyone here today."
"As you go back to your picnics and barbecues this afternoon, tell your family and friends what a dignified and solidly impressive ceremony this is here, in Lansdale. For it is this Memorial Day observance that makes me proud to be a resident of Lansdale, and more importantly, proud to be an American," he said.
A playing of the National Anthem concluded the ceremony, with veterans and active-duty personnel saluting "Old Glory," while borough residents proudly placed their hands over their hearts.
Immediately following the Memorial Park ceremony, many residents folded up their chairs and made the two-block walk to Penndale Middle School, where another ceremony was about to take place, led by members of the high school Key Club.
A crowd surrounded the memorial on the corner of Penn Street and Church Road, as the North Penn High School JROTC Color Guard raised a new American flag, which had been donated by the House of Representatives and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz.
Afterward, two students read the names of the former North Penn students who had been killed in action during the Vietnam conflict. Again, residents placed a flower at the base of the memorial as each name was read.
That concluded the borough's Memorial Day festivities, as residents dispersed to head home and spend the rest of their day grilling food and enjoying time with their families.
For Lansdale residents Scott and Maureen Lawson, Memorial Day is a time to look back and appreciate the sacrifices of the members of the armed forces.
"To me, it's a time to reflect. My father served in the United States Army during World War II in the South Pacific. He died a few years ago, so it's definitely a time to think for me," said Scott Lawson, whose son,Tyler, is a senior at North Penn High School and a member of the Marching Knights.
"It's about celebrating and honoring the lives of everyone in the military, especially those who lost their lives so we can be here today," added Maureen Lawson.
Compared to the veterans in attendance, my time as a soldier seems somewhat typical and ordinary. In speaking to those men and women, I feel a profound sense of joy knowing that I was fortunate enough to don the same uniform, and serve the same cause.
This Memorial Day was a truly amazing experience, both in hearing the tales of local veterans, as well as seeing the community rally behind its troops. I've never been so proud to call Lansdale my home, and I have never been so proud to be an American.
Check out our large photo gallery of both the Memorial Park and Penndale ceremonies. We also have video of all the day's events, edited by Lansdale Patch Editor Tony Di Domizio.