The Lawncrest community came together Wednesday at “The Grove” next to Lawncrest Rec Center to celebrate Veterans Day.
The event, which achieved a crowd of more than 100 people, was planned by the Lawncrest Community Association, with help from the office of Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, the Rising Sun Lions Club and the Phil-Mont Kiwanis Club.
People who arrived passed by headstone memorials near Rising Sun Avenue, which honored World War I and World War II veterans. In the back of The Grove stood a memorial honoring both Vietnam and Korean War Vets.
Kathy Wersinger, administrative assistant to Tasco, headed the celebration. “I think it is important to thank out veterans,” she said. “The only services I know of are downtown, and so this was a good way to bring people in the community together.”
Veterans from the Philadelphia Protestant Home, a nearby nursing home, came for the celebration, most in full uniform.
Bill Dolbow, Lawncrest Community Association president, read a poem regarding the history of Veterans Day. Veterans young and old stood together for the raising of the American flag. Wersinger introduced essay contest winners from Benjamin Franklin and St. William schools. Robert Brown, Jr., from Benjamin Franklin School, and Kira Duvour, of St. William’s, both received money for their education for their winning essays on the topic, “What a Veteran Means to Me.”
Every veteran went up, stated what branch of military they served in and in what years they served. One student each from St. William’s shook the vets’ hands and gave them thank you cards.
The event came to a conclusion with Commander Clifford A. Jeffries, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and U.S. Air Force Vietnam 1966-67, ordering a few Vets to fire their weapons for a gun salute to honor their fallen comrades.
On what Veterans Day means to him, Jeffries stated, “Veterans Day is a day to celebrate our fellow veterans, more so than Memorial Day, when you honor the memory of guys you’ve served with. Today is supposed to be a more joyous day. Having grown up as apart of the neighborhood, I remember as a boy scout on the Fourth of July, this whole Grove would be filled with Veterans ad scout units after the parade, where we would raise the flag.”
Mark Simkiw, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2005-06, said Veterans Day means honoring those he looks up to. “Veteran’s Day means a lot of things to a lot of different people. To me, it means honoring guys like Cliff [Jeffries], guys who’ve gone before us.”
After the event, Wersinger discussed the origins of the service. “It started as a community cleanup of this section, called the Grove. Someone said, ‘Why not show it off after we clean it up with a Veterans Day Service?;”
Wersinger is on St. William’s Development team with Kathy McDunnah, a fifth grade teacher at the school. “We were doing the essay contest and she asked, ‘Can my students make a thank you card for he Veterans?'” Wersinger said of McDunnah. “And I said ‘sure,’ so it all came together.”
The librarian next door, Debra Mikus, made sure the microphones and speakers would work. The Veterans painted the flag pole. The students painted the windows of the library. It was a community effort.
Although the event was the first for Lawncrest, Dolbow and Wersinger hope for it to become an annual event. They already have next year’s theme in mind – “Honoring Our Veterans.”
Jeffries and Wersinger were pleased with the day’s events. “Our efforts just proved that when a community works together, things can get done,” Wersinger said.
“The community getting back to being a community is what impressed me about today,” Jeffries added. “I’m glad I got to be a part of it.”