Florence Township’s Francis W. Robbins American Legion Post 194 honored the nation’s veterans with a unique event on Memorial Day weekend.
With municipal officials, residents and members of the post gathered at the township’s Oak Street Monument on May 26, post members were escorted by the township police department and motorcyclists to conduct a ceremony to honor the country’s fallen service men and women.
As part of a set of multiple brief observances held at other cemeteries and monuments around the area, Florence Township Mayor Craig Wilkie said the Oak Street Monument ceremony serves as an integral part of remembrance for veterans on Memorial Day in Florence.
“Time honors tradition,” Mayor Wilkie said. “Veterans have always, near or on Memorial Day, gone out and paid their respects to salute the dead.”
Along with an observance held at the Florence eagle monument at Front Street and Broad Street as well as a wreath laying into the Delaware River for those who had lost their lives at sea, the local posts visit a respective site, say a prayer, conduct a gun salute and follow it with a performance of “Taps” before they head off to the next site.
For the Oak Street Monument, it not only honors the local veterans who had lost their lives in World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, but also acknowledges those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.
Mayor Wilkie explained that a water tower formerly stood at the site of the monument, but after it was dismantled by the township in the 1990s, Florence’s war veterans wanted to apply a new purpose to the site.
In 1991, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Florence American Legion Post 194, the Willitts-Hogan-Tonne Roebling American Legion Post 39 and the VFW formed a committee to raise money to erect the monument and honor those who they had lost.
Mayor Wilkie reported that several veterans who had lived through the Pearl Harbor attacks had actually attended the first ceremony at the site to share their stories. Although those veterans had passed away since, Wilkie said that the township will continue its annual tradition to honor its fallen heroes at the site and around the township.
Not only does the memorial service at the Oak Street location play an important role in recognizing the township’s veterans, Mayor Wilkie said that these services symbolize Florence’s commitment to honoring its service men and women as well.
“We are a small community with strong family values,” he said. “We appreciate the freedoms that we have in this country, and we have to remember those that didn’t get to come home to be a mayor or be a business leader – they didn’t get that opportunity.”