LOWER MAKEFIELD >> The township said thank you to its veterans on Saturday afternoon with a flag-waving, patriotic parade down Edgewood Road and a ceremony at Veterans Square that included a special tribute to this year’s Grand Marshals.
All along the parade route, applause filled the air as veterans proudly marched and rode by beaming with pride and humility in the November cold and sunshine.
Among them was one of this year's Parade Marshals, Robert James McCartney, a U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran, Hamburger Hill survivor and Purple Heart recipient.
More applause filled the air as American Legion Post 317 Commander Ted Smith rode by waving to the crowd bundled up against the cold on Edgewood Road.
Also joining the march this year were leaders and members of American Legion Post 317 and VFW Post 6393, who shook hands and waved as they walked the parade route.
The parade was led by members of the Warriors Watch and a U.S. Marine Corps League all divisions detachment color guard, and continued with military and antique vehicles; the Bracken Cadets who rode by playing “God Bless the USA;” the Washington Crossing Chapter of the DAR; the Children of the American Revolution; and antique bikes, cars and military vehicles.
Also joining the march were Pennsbury Falcon Cheerleading; the Yardley-Makefield Fire Company; lots and lots of Scouts; Kayden's Korner; Business2Business Association; the award-winning Pennsbury High School Marching Band under the direction of Frank Mazzeo; among others.
Following the parade, a brief ceremony took place at Veterans Square emceed by Dan Grenier, the chairman of the Lower Makefield Board of Supervisors.
Joining him on stage were U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, State Senator Steve Santarsiero, State Rep. Perry Warren, Bucks County Prothonotary Judi Reiss; township supervisors John Lewis and Dr. Fred Weiss, Pennsbury School Board President TR Kannan, VFW Post 6393 Commander Russ Davidson, American Legion Post 317 Commander Ted Smith, Parade Marshal Robert McCartney, Bucks County Commissioner-elect Robert Harvie and Pennsbury School Board member Debra Wachspress.
“Today we honor generations of those members of our community that made it their priority to serve all of us in war and peacetime,” said Grenier, addressing a fairly large crowd at Veterans Square Park. “I want to say a sincere thank you to all here today and in our community who served and continue to serve.”
Grenier, who grew up in a large family in the state of Maine, spoke about the impact veterans have had on his life, including 10 brothers who served in the military and five sisters who married husbands who served in the military. And his uncle who served in WWII, Korean and Vietnam.
“The most impactful in my life has been my older brother who is one of my real life heroes,” said Grenier. “He’s presently serving as a command sergeant major in the US Army at the army’s Interagency training and education center.”
Grenier recalled that one of the scariest times for the family was when his brother was deployed to Somolia during the Black Hawk Down time period. “That incident personally was one of the scariest I can recall for our family,” he said.
Again in 2003-04 his brother was deployed to Iraq as a military policeman. “We had no idea where he was or what he was doing. Then one day while reading the news online I saw an AP photo of two soldiers helping an elderly woman. I thought to myself, ‘Wow. I’m glad to see our soldiers in that light.’”
Then he read the caption and discovered that one of the soldiers was his brother. “We were more than a little worried that the caption said he was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq which at the time was a very dangerous place. And he was later awarded a bronze star for his actions in Iraq.
“Not long after that photo was taken unfortunately, two soldiers from his unit paid the ultimate sacrifice when they were killed by AEDs,” said Grenier.
“That is why I find it so important to honor our veterans today,” said Grenier. “Their commitment to service, family and country inspires us to be better people and never forget their sacrifice.”
Following his remarks, the gathering heard from Congressman Fitzpatrick, State Senator Santarsiero and State Rep. Warren who thanked the nation’s veterans for their service and acknowledged this year’s parade marshals, Vietnam veteran Robert McCartney, and World War II veteran Richard Neelen, with flags and special commendations recognizing their service to the nation.
“We thank our veterans for their service, for their commitment, for the example they set for future generations,” said Warren. “We thank all of you who served, who continue to serve and those of you who will serve in the future. And for those of you who will serve in the future, you can look upon the men and women who are here today for the examples they set, the sacrifices they made and the work they did to make this country the great country that it is. This is a day and a weekend to say thank you to all of our veterans.”
“Let’s not remember just the service our veterans have given to our country in the Armed Forces, but the fact that they continue to serve our country in civilian life,” added Santarsiero. “It is that ethic, that drive to serve that doesn’t go away when they leave the Armed Forces. All of us in the community should be grateful for that continuing level of service.
“It’s also fitting that we remember on this day those who served our country and gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Santarsiero. “We have the freedoms we enjoy, the liberties we enjoy in this country and throughout the world today because of their sacrifices and work that they did.”
Congressman Fitzpatrick said that people are born with the basic instinct to run away from danger. “The people who serve our military do the opposite,” he said. “They run towards danger at great physical sacrifice, at great psychological and emotional sacrifice - all in the name of serving a cause bigger than themselves. And it is an incredibly noble and honorable way to live one’s life.
“To our veterans who are here, God bless all of you for doing the work you have done,” continued Fitzpatrick. “It’s also important that we send a message to our kids. If you serve your nation, your nation will stand behind you,” said the Congressman. “And our nation will protect you and defend you and take care of you for the rest of your life.”
VFW Post 6393 Commander Russell Davidson had the official duty of introducing this year’s parade marshal, Vietnam veteran and US Army Specialist Robert James McCartney.
Born and raised in Trenton, McCartney was drafted at the age of 20 into the US Army. He completed basic and advanced infantry training at Fort Dix and jungle training at the US Army Command in Hawaii before deploying to Vietnam.
Upon arrival, McCarthey joined the 101st Airborne Division and was immediately choppered into the A Shau Valley, 1.2 miles east of the Laotian border and placed at the foot of hill 937.
Hill 937 was named as such in reference to its height. Locals called the Hill the mountain of the Crouching Beast. It was renamed by 19 year old Sgt. James Spear who when asked by reporters about the intense jungle fighting replied, “Have you ever been inside a hamburger machine? We have just been cut to pieces by extremely accurate machine gun fire.”
For his first combat mission, Specialist McCartney was dropped into the 10 day bruising battle of Hamburger Hill.
Seventy-two Americans died, 370 were wounded and more than 630 NVA perished on Hamburger.
Specialist McCartney stated that after several days of fighting they captured the Hill and secured the top. “We were still getting sporadic snipper fire. I was hit by a glancing bullet across my lip,” he said. “For that, I was awarded the Purple Heart. I also received the bronze star, the combat infantry badge and the combat service medal.”
McCarthey also received the Army Commendation Medal with two overseas bars for meritorious achievement and acts of courage and heroism, the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Returning home, he resumed his career at US Steel Fairless Works, he earned his BS degree in business administration from Rider College and retired after a career with Cenlar Federal Savings.
He and his wife, Theresa, live in Lower Makefield and are the parents of two sons, Brien and Kevin, and the grandparents of six.
McCartney now serves his community as chaplain of VFW Post 6393.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in applauding this extraordinary gentleman, Robert McCartney,” said Davidson to a standing ovation and extended applause.
Following a performance of God Bless America by the Pennsbury Community Choir, the ceremony concluded with the placing of memorial wreaths at the base of the Veterans Square monument by Ted Smith of American Legion Post 317 and Davidson.
The commanders offered a salute to veterans, living and dead, as Taps, performed by Nathan Shin and Robbie Olenick, members of the Pennsbury High School Marching Band, echoed through the park.