Memorial Day is more than just barbecuing

Katherine Ranzenberger

Red poppies are worn on Memorial Day for those who died serving this nation.

York County Commissioner Chris Reilly read aloud a poem by the woman who started the tradition in 1918. Nearly 100 years after Moina Michael wrote the words, her tribute was shared with a group of veterans, family members and friends who gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in York.

"We cherish, too, the poppy red / That grows on fields where valor led," Reilly recited. "It seems to signal to the skies / That blood of heroes never dies."

More than 100 people of all ages gathered at the park near York Catholic High School to honor those who gave their lives for their country. York County's oldest veteran, Joshua Jackson, joined the group.

"I thank God for being here," the 94-year-old Army veteran said. "I thank God for each and every one of us and above all the United States of America. We are blessed in this country."

Susan Oelrich, chaplain at Pleasant Acres Nursing Home, shared the invocation, reminding people to remember those who served.

"Too often this day becomes a party in the backyard and not a day of remembrance," she said.

York County honors and remembers fallen military service members with a Memorial Day ceremony Monday, May 30, 2106, at the York County Vietnam Veterans Memorial. John A. Pavoncello photo

Director: Philip Palandro led the ceremony at the park, his final one after nearly nine years of serving as the director of York County Department of Veteran Affairs. Palandro is retiring and plans to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

An Army veteran himself, he was honored by multiple groups with plaques commemorating his time leading the department.

"I'm kind of glad, kind of sad," Palandro said. "Change is inevitable. I don't know what I'd do without these mean, ugly guys."

Michelle Wherely and her son Michael, 2, of New Freedom, visit the York County Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the York Expo Center on Monday, May 30, 2106, to see "Pop-Pop"'s name engraved on the black granite.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The Pittsburgh native served in the Army from 1992 to 1997. He was stationed in places as diverse as Virginia and Korea in his time. His son is in the Navy and is stationed in San Diego. He is the 10th member of the Palandro family to serve in the armed forces since World War I.

Palandro echoed Oelrich's comments about reminding people the day is a day of remembrance and not just a day to barbecue with friends.

"Our life today is because of those veterans," he said. "It's probably the most important day of the year. Make sure to remember those who died and thank those still around."

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.

The First Capitol Marine Corps League Detachment Color Guard of York County advances the colors during a Memorial Day ceremony Monday, May 30, 2016, at Veterans Memorial Park.
John A. Pavoncello photo