Avon Grove Parade honors fallen warriors

Photo by Chris Barber Marine Ken Weaver rings a bell in honor of his friend, Brandon Hardy, who died in combat. A young Boy Scout looks on.
Photo by Chris Barber Spectators hold their ears during the 21-gun salute at the Memorial Day Parade in West Grove.

WEST GROVE -- The annual Avon Grove Memorial Day Parade is probably the only time the residents get to see their large fleet of fire engines all trailing slowly, one after the other, down Prospect Avenue.

And those trucks were there en masse on Saturday, bringing up the rear of that 10th annual event in the borough.

A formal color guard and the Avon Grove Band led the way with veterans bearing arms and flags, followed by students with banners, drums and wind instruments.

Then came the Boy and Girl scouts, karate kids, horses, Little League players and a string of antique cars.


State Sen. Andy Dinniman waved to the spectators from a convertible, while state Rep. John Lawrence drove his own antique vehicle complete with vintage license plate and a tiger tail hanging out the gas tank lid.

But the real spirit of the day that honors fallen war heroes came after the parade hoopla with a remembrance service at Memorial Plaza on Evergreen Street.

As in past years, Marine. Col. Hank Detering was master of ceremonies, reminding his audience that this was more than the day to open the pool and have a barbecue. Nonetheless, he also announced that following the ceremony, the crowd was invited for hotdogs and music at the West Grove Presbyterian Church up the street.

Dinniman greeted the crowd with a reminder that he was happy to be the borough’s senator and that he remembered it well from his days as a county commissioner.

Getting more serious, he spoke of the meaning of Memorial Day and what his brother who had been in the military told him.

“He said to realize that there are some bad people in the world. Some people understand that and stand up to them,” he said.

He continued, “Days like Memorial Day, we feel a bond with each other as well as the past, present and future. … Look up in the sky and many of the stars you see died years ago, but they still light our way. There are individuals (who died) who still light our way like beacons on the hill.”

Lawrence told the crowd, “I encourage you to thank a veteran and reflect on those who have gone before.” He also suggested they search out information about a family member who was lost to war and thank them and those who endured the pain of their loss.

The main speaker was Fred LeClair, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1955 and served in the 8th Motor Transport Battalion at Camp Geiger in North Carolina and at Headquarters Company at the Philadelphia Navy Base. He continues to serve as an active member of the Chester County Detachment of the Marine Corps League.

“Those who defended our country are all missed. We have a responsibility to remember and honor them,” he said.

He described two individuals who he said represent the spirit of Memorial Day.

One was Philip Charles Taylor, who served in Vietnam and was flying on a mission in a helicopter. The helicopter pilot was shot, and Taylor, who had never piloted a plane, was able to land it by readio message instructions.

Two weeks later he was on another helicopter mission and the vessel was shot down into a fire end. His body was recovered 22 years later.

The other individual was the late Brandon Hardy, a graduate of Octorara High School, who joined the Marines in 2006. He died in battle.

Following his speech, LeClair led the spectators and guests in ringing a bell -- once for each person they wanted to remember on this day. A friend of Hardy, Marine Ken Weaver, rang the bell in his honor.

The ceremony closed with the laying of a wreath on the veterans marker by parade Chairman Domenico Ruffini and LeClair, a 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps” and a bagpipe rendition on “Amazing Grace.”

The parade was organized by committees consisting of Ron Edgington, John Ruffini, Detering, Steve Flagel, Vicki Dash-Siesinski, Tom Muller and Gary Hicks.

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .