If these bricks could talk…

By on June 12, 2019

Roughly 200 memorial brick pavers are gracing Veterans Honor Park of Lancaster County, which sits across from Lititz Public Library. The bricks are the personification of this park.
These are memorials to real people, with names on the bricks you won’t necessarily find in history books.

“The bricks are really touching stuff; they really bring it home,” said C. David Kramer, Chairman of Veterans Honor Park and a retired Marine Corps Vietnam veteran.

“These were not heroes, just people doing their duty,” he said.

Most bricks are from Lancaster County people, but others, generally have a Lancaster County connection. Like Rudolph Anderson. He was the pilot shot down during the Cuban missile crisis. His cousin bought a brick for him. The cousin is from Lancaster County.

Then there is Doug Anderson, of Manheim, a Vietnam veteran, who served from 1967-68 in the 173rd Airborne Division as a rifle team leader with a machine gun squad under his command. He was the point man, usually having five or six guys under him – and once in a while, he was given a sniper.

Photos by Eric Stark

“A lot of them, God bless them, were 18 years old. I was 22 years old. They looked at me as a big brother,” said Anderson, who celebrated his 75th birthday Sunday at the Park’s dedication ceremony. “I was their sergeant, their team leader and I couldn’t bring them all home.”

Now he honors them with a brick. He bought a brick, which was not made in time for dedication, will say “173rd Airborne.”

He plans to buy two more bricks and put names on them of guys that weren’t as fortunate as him.

“To me, it is all about the guys that didn’t come home,” he said. “It’s a tribute to them. whenever I can put their name out there. There are too many guys for me to put a brick for all of them.”

Many people who buy these bricks send along faded photos, newspaper clippings and other information about their loved ones.

Kramer receives many letters, emails, notes, and even some obituaries.

“I got photographs and a postcard from a man who sent (the postcard) to his mother (stating) that he was safe at Pearl Harbor.”

Nine Medal of Honor recipients from Lancaster County were honored with bricks. All are installed adjacent to each other. Their service times range from the Civil War to Vietnam.
One of the lucky ones to make it one from World War II was Manheim-native Walter Kissinger a regular seaman who barely survived when his battleship, the U.S.S. Arizona exploded and sank at Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941.

Roughly 200 memorial brick pavers are the center piece of the Veterans Honor Park of Lancaster County, which was dedicated on Sunday.

Then there was Mary Elizabeth Walls Eshelman, born in Lancaster and known life-long as Polly. She joined the U.S. Navy WAVES and became a pistol-packing’ paymaster during WWII. Polly carried a small caliber revolver to protect big sums of cash she carried to pay the troops.

You’ll see a brick to Leo Rossi, a WWII U.S. bomber door gunner who had an arm ripped off while bailing out over enemy territory before his flaming aircraft spiraled into the dirt.

There’s Joe Kennedy, barely out of his teens when a German land mine killed him in April 1945 just days before WWII ended in Europe. His brick reads, “Joseph Kennedy, Love ya, Your Kid Sister.”

The brick is from his younger sister, who was just 11 years old when her big brother died for his country. She is Mrs. Eileen McCarry who lives about four blocks from the Veterans Honor Park.

“I got a letter from a woman that brought tears to my eyes,” Kramer said. “She is in a wheelchair but she insisted on seeing the brick she bought.”

Lititz’s Clyde W. Stauffer was killed Dec. 22, 1944, one of the 453 U.S. Army soldiers from Lancaster County who were killed in action or subsequently died of battle wounds while fighting in WWII.

A generation later, there is Vietnam War Army Veteran Tom Legath, the Clay Elementary School Principal who died a couple of years ago from Agent Orange related illness.

“The Veterans Honor Park of Lancaster County hopes to rekindle or inspire respect for these people and a yearning for such knowledge, for not only the historically notable but all who served honorably in the United States armed forces,” Kramer said during his dedication speech.

Eric Stark is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. 

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