The idea for a special area in Doylestown Borough to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by Bucks County men and women fighting the global war on terror first took shape in 2009, but it was not until Saturday that Freedom Square truly felt complete.
Under a blistering September sun, friends and family members of the 25 Bucks County men and woman killed while serving in the military since the September 11, 2001, attacks watched the official unveiling of new Hometown Heroes banners installed along the wall of the Freedom Square courtyard. The memorial on Pine Street and Garden Alley is a reminder of the people who risked and gave their lives to serve their country.
"We are grateful for the work that was put into creating this," said Kathryn Roberts, mother of Army Spc. Nicholas Roberts, a CB East graduate who died in 2015 during a training exercise at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He was the most recent Bucks County native killed while serving.
The 30-minute rededication ceremony and ribbon-cutting paid tribute to the true cost of war, as guest speakers including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown, recognized the honor and courage of the fallen heroes. In his remarks, Fitzpatrick spoke about meeting a young soldier heading into his third deployment and asking him where he finds the courage to serve.
"One of his comments stuck with me and will always stick with me," Fitzpatrick said. "He said, 'We fight not because of the enemy standing in front of us, we fight because we love the nation standing behind us.'"
The Travis Manion Foundation partnered with the North Penn chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers to produce and install the banners, colorful placards featuring the names, photos and hometowns of the fallen soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen. They are affixed onto metal frames that have been drilled into a stone wall bordering the courtyard, land donated by the Goldman Family to create Freedom Square.
"The ultimate price was paid to ensure our freedom and our liberty," said William Goldman, a prominent Bucks County attorney born and raised in Doylestown. "Now their names and faces and their families endure by imprinting this on these banners and dedicating this space to them. Their brave decision to serve our country and protect our freedom is recognized today."
An atmosphere of gratitude, reverence and pride ruled the afternoon as the visitors walked along the memorial. Absent from the day were palpable hard feelings or bitterness about the reasons for the creation of the new banners and memorials.
The Travis Manion Foundation led the charge to get the Freedom Square banners produced and installed five months after Bucks County officials removed similar flags that hung around the county administration building's courtyard in Doylestown Borough.
That decision was met with heavy criticism by some family members of the fallen service members, primarily Ryan Manion Borek, sister of 1st Lt. Travis Manion and president of the Travis Manion Foundation. When the discussions with county officials to reverse the decision ended unsuccessfully, Manion Borek got to work with her foundation and the North Penn Gold Star Mothers to create an alternative.
"Even in the divisive time we live in now, honoring our military community is something we can all agree is a practice that should never waver," said Manion Borek. "We honor them by ensuring that all generation understand the significance of what they sacrificed to allow us the freedom that we hold so dear."
The Travis Manion Foundation continues to raise money to fund the ongoing maintenance of Freedom Square and the banners. Donations can be made online at travismanion.org.