As the United States observes Veterans Day, Philadelphia-area faithful say COVID-19 hasn’t marred their efforts to honor those who have served their country.
The annual holiday originated with World War I’s armistice between the Allied nations and Germany, which took effect Nov. 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. In 1954, following World War II and the Korean War, “Armistice Day” was expanded to Veterans Day.
Despite social distancing and gathering size limits, “the coronavirus pandemic actually added to our impact” in supporting veterans, said Deb Ferretti, a parishioner at St. Isidore in Quakertown.
Having served in the U.S. Navy, Ferretti heads up a parish ministry that provides handmade shawls to retired area veterans. The 39-inch square blankets, a mix of knitted and crocheted pieces, are beloved by their recipients, many of whom are in wheelchairs.
Under the coronavirus restrictions, “many of us … had nothing to do but knit and crochet,” said Ferretti.
This year, the parish donated some 58 lap robes to the nearby John Rivers Memorial V.F.W. Post 11322 in Quakertown, which in turn distributed them to area nursing homes.
The effort is one of several sponsored by St. Isidore’s military outreach committee, said fellow parishioner Kathy Walters.
In addition to prayers and Masses for service personnel, initiatives include partnering with the Wallace Willard Keller American Legion Post 242 in Quakertown to place American flags on the graves of veterans, some 275 of which are located in St. Isidore’s cemetery.
In Philadelphia, Joseph and Maureen Taylor of the Friends of St. Joachim Cemetery ensured that veterans laid to rest in the historic graveyard (now part of Holy Innocents Parish) were also honored with American flags.
The couple, members of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in the city’s Rhawnhurst section, dodged impending showers to visit the graves this morning, Nov. 11.
Joseph Taylor — who along with fellow local historian Bob Smiley has spent years documenting St. Joachim’s cemetery and the former parish church — said military service runs in his blood.
“My grandfather served in the Navy on the USS Oklahoma in World War I,” he said. “When that was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II, he re-enlisted, and my father also enlisted.”
Taylor continued the family’s tradition of naval service, having been stationed at bases in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War.
In the Lawncrest neighborhood, St. William Parish dedicated its 12 p.m. Mass Nov. 8 to veterans, with an honor guard accompanying pastor Father Alfonso Concha, a retired Navy chaplain, during the entrance procession.
The guard was comprised of members of the nearby American Legion Crest-Lawn Memorial Post 832 and the Michael J. Crescenz M.O.H. Rising Sun V.F.W. Post 2819.
Harry Beck, senior vice commander at the American Legion Post 832, said his participation at the annual liturgy was an ongoing commitment to veterans and those whom they served.
“We do this every year as part of our dedication to the community and to our fellow veterans, living and (deceased),” said Beck, a former St. William parishioner who now lives in Delaware County and worships at both Holy Rosary and St. John Fisher parishes.
Veterans exemplify the practice of sacrifice that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, said Joseph Taylor.
“One description of a veteran is someone who put their personal life on hold and devoted some time to protecting and serving our country,” said Taylor.
“We owe them a debt of gratitude,” added Maureen Taylor. “They shouldn’t be forgotten, whether they made it home or not.”
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