YORK, Pa. - City and county leaders in York hosted a Memorial Day ceremony at Penn Park Monday. They honored a local veteran, Calvin C. Rice Jr. who died 50 years ago in the Vietnam War. Many in the community feel his recognition was long overdue.
Memorial Day has always been a day to honor and remember the fallen, but on Monday it was the forgotten who were remembered.
"On June 25th, 1969, the United States of America lost a patriot, an American hero, and I lost a friend," Vietnam Vet Harold Redding said.
Rice was a student at William Penn High School. He answered the call of duty and enlisted in the military when he was 18-years-old.
A staff sergeant, he earn 4 awards for his heroism during his first 6 months in Vietnam. On June 15th, 1969 he led a patrol when his unit was ambushed. He died from his injuries 10 days later.
Family members knew of his death, but had no idea he was a highly decorated veteran for decades. But his brother, now 71-years-old, was all smiles at the ceremony.
"I'm overjoyed with all that's going on for my brother," Elwood Rice said. "And I truly appreciate this. My only regret is that my parents aren't living to see this because they'd be very proud after all this time."
Wreaths were laid, speeches were given, taps were played, and a flagpole was dedicated to Rice. An initiative by Redding, Rice's grade school friend. He wrote a letter to the mayor after feeling like Rice was never recognized enough.
"That caring person and that characteristic of his, which made him, I believe, do what he did to become the hero that he is is the best way to remember him," Redding said. "That heritage and that remembrance of those who have fallen have to carry on. It has to."
And carry on it does for York County District Attorney Dave Sunday, whose a proud Navy veteran.
"The thing about today is in our busy lives, so many things happen but this is a time for remembrance so we can think about the sacrifices so many have made," Sunday said.
In addition to Rice, Sgt. Benjamin Hines and Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, the two men with local ties to York County who died in Afghanistan last month, were also honored.