YARDLEY >> A 21 gun salute echoed across the peaceful gravesites at the historic Slate Hill Cemetery early Monday morning as local veterans gathered to honor the nation’s war dead.

While big events, like the town's beloved Memorial Day Parade, had to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic, veterans from VFW Post 6393 and American Legion Post 317 moved forward with its early morning salute to the fallen.

Meeting just before 7 a.m. and led by an antique 1945 military Jeep driven by its owner, Bryon Marshall, a caravan of 29 vehicles departed from American Legion Post 317 on South Main Street with stops at the Slate Hill, St. Ignatius and St. Andrew’s cemeteries, and at the veterans monuments on East Afton Avenue, at Veterans Square in Lower Makefield and at the Yardley Borough Hall.

At each stop, a rifle squad, led by Bucky Shimp, fired 21 gun salutes, and West Point Cadet and Eagle Scout Anthony Capetti of Yardley sounded Taps.

At the veterans monument on East Afton Avenue, VFW Commander Russ Davidson paused to remember the fallen, speaking about the sacrifices they made for freedom.

“A long time ago Aristotle declared that courage was the greatest of all virtues. He argued that without courage no other virtue could be sustained or supported. We gather here today to honor our war dead with the full knowledge that it was their courage that allowed us our freedoms. We stand hoping to offer proper respect that will inspire other generations to honor those who gave us our freedom and to realize that the sacrifice for our American ideals, our system of justice and our liberty is not too great.”

Following his remarks, Davidson acknowledged a number of individuals taking part in the ceremony, including Brad Varney, marking his 51st year of participation; US Air Force veteran John Bench, marking his 33rd year of participation; and US Army Veteran Roger Seldes.

He also recognized the Shimp family of Yardley, including their “platoon” leaders Bernadette and U.S. Navy veteran and former ship fitter Walter “Bucky” Shimp and their three children - Tony, Mark and Katrina, all U.S. Marines.

In addition to serving on the rifle squad, the Shimp family has helped beautify the veterans monument on East Afton Avenue for the past 40 years.

The local veterans were joined at the brief, but meaningful ceremonies by a handful of residents and local politicians and community leaders, including U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, State Rep. Perry Warren, Lower Makefield Supervisor Fred Weiss, Yardley Borough Mayor Chris Harding, Yardley Borough Council President David Bria and Yardley Borough Manager Paula Johnson.