Bucks Countians came out Saturday afternoon to decorate a Christmas tree with the names of fallen Bucks Vietnam Veterans as they have for decades, despite the pandemic.
The tree decorating has been an annual tradition at the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Doylestown since 1988. This year, about two dozen people gathered at the intersection of East Court and Main Streets.
“There weren’t so many old men 20 years ago,” one quipped.
The idea for the ceremony came from Neil and Sherry Wolfe. Neil, who served as a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War, passed in 2010 at the age of 63. Yet the event continues a decade later.
The ceremony is fairly straightforward. Attendees form a line and pick up an ornament as Jack Norton reads the name printed on it, their hometown, and rank. The ornament is placed on the tree, and the person gets back in line.
Despite its simplicity, the process lasted for about 45 minutes. At times, the list of names seemed almost unending.
While the Doylestown Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 210, hosts the event each year, the tree decorating is for the fallen of Bucks. Norton read off names from Croydon, Penndel, Fairless Hills, and throughout Bucks County.
“We’re all Vietnam Veterans,” Norton told WBCB. “When we got home, people didn’t treat us right at all. And we’ll never let that happen again.”
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick attended and participated, hanging several decorations.
“This has been a tradition for Doylestown for decades,” Fitzpatrick told WBCB. “Some of the people said they were bringing their children here 25 years ago. It’s specific to Vietnam Veterans who are all near and dear to our hearts given what they had to endure when they came back home.”
After the reading, Norton recommended a book going into detail about the names hanging on the tree.
Marine Corps veteran Jim McComb, who served in Vietnam, published More Than Names On A Wall in 2011. McComb had attended the Doylestown tree decorating but felt the names deserved to have their stories told.
The book has information on every person behind the name. It is available online for purchase here.
Norton also thanked Walter’s Nursery in Point Pleasant for donating the tree, valued at about $400 to $500. The business supplies the tree for this event each year.