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Upper Main Line Honors War Heroes

Veterans and local families observe Memorial Day with a colorful parade and ceremonies in Radnor.

Radnor Township wore its most patriotic colors this morning. The flag waving and revelry began shortly before 10 a.m. as parade participants proceeded along Lancaster Avenue, and ended on a more solemn note at the War Memorial on South Wayne Avenue.

“Memorial Day is arguably one of America’s most important holidays,” Col. David R. Gray (Retired) of the Valley Forge Military Academy and College told hundreds of people who had gathered at the Ranor Township War Memorial on South Wayne Avenue.

The flag flew at half-mast as Col. Gray spoke. Boy Scout Troops 1 and 219, American Legion members from posts 668 and 418, and Poppy Queen Fiona Whitman of Coatesville, and princesses Meghan Crothers and Elizabeth Hisey, both of Exton, participated in ceremonies.

The Grand Marshalls, Iraq veterans James John Williamson II and his brother, John Cotter Williamson, stood proudly in uniform as they received accolades for their service.  Both grew up in Villanova and graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School and Valley Forge Military Academy and College.

“This is an incredible honor to have the opportunity to represent the heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” J.J. (James John) Williamson said after the parade as his 2-year-old daughter Kendra reached up for her father’s hand. His wife, Hope, also an Iraq veteran, stood nearby with 6-week old Jimmy.

Both of the highly decorated brothers served in Iraq. James John also served in Afghanistan.

“Not knowing second to second if they were alive” was the hardest part, according to Bonnie Cotter, mother of James John and Jon. “Thanks to the prayers of so many people in Radnor Township – that’s what kept them alive.”

In Radnor Township, 118 veteran names are represented on the memorial wall, an eternal testament of their service to country.

“And these two young Army officers … captains James and Jon Williamson represent of the high caliber and courage of our all volunteer armed forces engaged in the current War on Terror,” Col. Gray said.

Radnor Twp. Memorial Day Parade Committee Chairman Neil Fulton introduced the Williamson brothers and he presented them with framed certificates as Grand Marshalls.

After a rifle squad fired three volleys as a salute to fallen comrades, and taps was sounded, the Valley Forge Military Choir played the military anthems representing each war.

Army Korean War Veteran Alphonse DiGiovanni M.D. of Newtown Square raised his hand during the Korean War anthem.

“Honoring Memorial Day is the way you can respect the service of others,” DiGiovanni said. “You get a sense of great pride and devotion to country and it maintains that pride.”

The longest period of peace was the 23 years between WWI and WWII, according to Col. Gray.

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