LOWER MAKEFIELD >> The township said thank you to its veterans for making freedom possible during a special ceremony on Saturday at Veterans Square highlighted by the recognition of its first female veteran honoree.
Broadcast live over social media channels and led by Board of Supervisors Chairman Dr. Fred Weiss, the socially distanced event included remarks by U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, State Senator Steve Santarsiero, State Rep. Perry Warren and Veterans Square Foundation Vice President Kathy Kraeck.
The ceremony began with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner led by Logan Harris and the Pledge of Allegiance and welcoming remarks by Fred Weiss, chairman of the township’s board of supervisors.
Highlighting the afternoon ceremony was the recognition of veteran honoree U.S. Army Lieutenant Ann Martin who worked behind enemy lines in East Berlin before the fall of the wall risking her life for freedom.
Lt. Martin was born in 1957 in Cape Town, South Africa, then moved as a young child to Denmark, England, Germany and to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where at the age of eight, she became a naturalized United States citizen.
When she was 13, Lt. Martin moved to Ewing, N.J., and later to Bucks County where she graduated from Pennsbury High School in 1976 and received her Bachelor's of Science in Nursing from Temple University in 1982.
A few years later, Lt. Martin enlisted in the U.S. Army and attended officer training. She was assigned to the 7th Medical Command and deployed to Berlin, Germany.
With her language skills and international background, Lt. Martin was recruited by the NSA and worked as a counterintelligence operative where she passed through Checkpoint Charlie between East and West Berlin daily for a year traveling under the guise of a disgruntled nurse seeking work and possible patronage in the east. Her guise worked.
She was hired by the East Berlin Medic Hospital and acquired information on missing people which was critical to U.S. listening stations, defense, and diplomatic operations. She was able to fool the Stasi, the feared and hated secret police of the East German Republic, and faced imminent danger during Cold War operations.
In June 1987 Lt. Martin attended President Ronald Reagan’s Berlin Wall speech in which he declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
After Germany, Lt. Martin completed her army career at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Md., and Fort Dix, N.J., and was medically discharged from the U.S. Army in 1991. She resides in Lower Makefield and is the proud mother of two daughters and three grandchildren.
“Thank you for your service, Ann. You are an exceptional woman, courageous and an inspiration to us all,” said Russ Davidson, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6393, in recognizing Martin by presenting her with a bouquet of roses.
U. S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and State Senator Steve Santarsiero also presented Martin with flags flown over the US Capitol in Washington, DC, and the state Capitol in Harrisburg in her honor.
Santarsiero and State Rep. Perry Warren also presented her with special citations from the state Senate and House of Representatives.
“If you think about our veterans and our first responders they share one innate quality,” said Fitzpatrick. “These are men and women who made the conscious decision to put their physical, psychological and emotional health on the line because they love their country and they love their fellow citizens more than they love themselves. The ultimate sign of love is that willingness to make that sacrifice.
“Behind me on the wall are over 800 names - women and men who have done just that in Lower Makefield and Yardley,” he continued.
“If you look back, our very first soldiers fought right here ... Think about the qualities they had. These are people taking on a British force that had not been beaten, knowing that when they left their families and their homes there was a pretty good chance they wouldn’t be coming home. Think about the courage ... And why would they do it? Because they believed not just in America as a country they believed in America as an idea.”
Santarsiero extended his thanks to the veterans in attendance and watching the ceremony over social media.
“No generation of Americans should ever forget the sacrifice that men and women in uniform have, time and time again, given to us so that we may enjoy freedom that we often don’t think about on a daily basis, but which is, after all, the core of who we are,” said Santarsiero.
“I am here today to say a simple word of thanks to every veteran who is here with us. Thank you for stepping forward,” he said. “Thank you for understanding that you have a duty to serve that goes beyond who you are. Thank you even today now that you are out of the armed services for continuing to serve our community, for continuing to stand up for everyone in our community so that this tradition, this American experiment in democracy that the founders began so many years ago, continues to this day.”
Representative Warren also thanked the veterans of the township, the state and the nation for their service to the country and for protecting the ideals of freedom.
“You have continued your service to the country that you’ve given for so many years during great times and difficult times,” he said. “You have been shining lights. Thank you so much for your continued service and for what you have done to make this country the great country that it is.”
Directing his comments to a group of young Scouts assisting at the ceremony, Warren pointed to the veterans “as no greater examples of what you can grow up to be ... You need look no further than the veterans you see here today.”
Kathy Kraeck, the Vice President of the Veterans Square Foundation, said it was six years ago that the Veterans Square Monument was dedicated to the veterans of Yardley Borough and Lower Makefield.
“The process was begun in 2008 by a group of volunteers to provide a fitting place to pay tribute to our veterans at the end of our Veterans Parade,” said Kraeck. “We worked with a landscape designer and sculptor to create an uplifting gathering place to come together to honor local veterans of the past, present and future and to educate our children about their sacrifices.”
Any veteran who lived in Lower Makefield or Yardley at any time in his/her life can submit his/her name to be added to the Veterans Square Wall of Honor at no charge by visiting VeteransSquare.org or calling 267-274-1195.
More than 800 names are already represented. Any individual or organization can financially support the monument by purchasing a brick Freedom Paver or donating to Veterans Square Foundation via the same contact information.
The ceremony concluded with the sounding of Taps and the laying of a wreath at the Veterans Square Monument by VFW Commander Russ Davidson and Knowles-Doyle American Legion Post 317 Commander Ted Smith
In addition to the ceremony, the township typically organizes a Veterans Day Parade, which had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic. But organizers said they felt it was important to hold at least the ceremony to recognize its local veterans.
Another ceremony is scheduled to take place on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11 beginning at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Monument located at the foot of East Afton Avenue in Yardley Borough across from the Yardley Inn.
Veterans will parade from the American Legion Post on South Main Street to the Veterans Memorial where they will lead a short ceremony, including remarks, the laying of a wreath and the playing of Taps. The public is invited to attend.