WILKES-BARRE — Two brothers who served in the Vietnam War have a new mission — to help give Memorial Day significance.
Gordon Dershimer, 71, of Harveys Lake, and his brother David, 67, of Winter Run, Florida, served in the Vietnam War. Gordon served in the Navy, while David served in the Army. Today, they each volunteer with the Memorial Day Foundation.
They will make the trip to Washington, D.C., on Thursday, where they will place bouquets on war memorials on the National Mall and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The next day, they plan to do some fundraising.
Gordon and David will not be making the trip alone — they’ll be accompanied by their wives, other family members and friends.
Gordon said the red flowers that will be in the bouquets represent the blood spilled for the country’s freedom.
Paul D’Elia, founder and director of the Memorial Day Foundation, called the Dershimer brothers “salt of the earth” guys that decided to give back. He said a core group of about 20 make the trip to Washington, D.C., each year. He said others also like to get involved, ranging from motorcycle groups to casual bystanders.
D’Elia said about 3,200 bouquets were placed last year, and about 3,500 are expected to be placed this year.
“People don’t just want to stand there — they also want to participate,” D’Elia said.
This year will mark the third year that Gordon has been involved with the organization. He said he got involved thanks to his brother. David’s connection with the organization goes all the way back to his days in Vietnam when he served with D’Elia.
“I served in Vietnam with the founder of the Memorial Day Foundation in 1967,” David said. “We were both members of the 127th Military Police Company in Qui Nhon, Vietnam.”
David first got involved with the organization in 2007. His role at first was to promote awareness of Memorial Day and accept donations for bouquets. He soon became “enthralled” by the cause and made a last-minute decision to go to Washington, D.C., for a hands-on role.
D’Elia said the mission of the Memorial Day Foundation is to increase awareness about Memorial Day through public displays of remembrance. More often than not, D’Elia said Memorial Day is thought of as the beginning of summer.
While D’Elia supported the idea of having fun, he wants to get the word out that the holiday is a day of mourning and remembering fallen soldiers.
Gordon called volunteerism “an important part of life,” and said it was important to remember those who fought for the country’s freedom.
“It’s appropriate historically to cover with flowers in memory of the war dead,” he said. “It’s very emotional, it’s very touching.”