A large statue of the father of our country now graces the local veterans cemetery that bears his name.
A crowd of more than 200 — including dozens of veterans, dignitaries and others — braved Saturday morning's rain to watch the unveiling of an eight-foot-high bronze statue of George Washington at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Upper Makefield.
Created by Doylestown sculptor Jennifer Frudakis-Petry with help from the Lanar Bronze Fine Arts Foundry in Chester and others, the statue was commissioned by the Guardians of the National Cemetery, the official volunteer support organization for WCNC.
"He put everything on the line, his fortune and his life, and molded a ragtag group into a force capable of fighting and winning against the greatest military power in the world at the time," said Saturday's keynote speaker, retired Marine General John F. Kelly, of the man who led the colonies to victory in the American Revolution and then became the newly formed nation's first President.
"Washington set the example for the millions who followed and served our country in the armed forces," added Kelly. "They asked 'if not me, then who?' and stepped up to serve as men and women of character."
The statue shows Washington kneeling in prayer during the harrowing winter encampment at Valley Forge in 1777-78, a sight recorded by local homeowner Isaac Potts at the time.
The 205-acre cemetery where thousands of veterans have been laid to rest is just three miles or so from the spot where Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas 1776 to lead his forces to victory in two battles against British troops.
"It's a magnificent statue to watch over this place of serene beauty," said Guardians' Treasurer and Monument Committee Chairman John C. Heenan. "It's another way to honor the thousands who have served their country who lay at rest here, and for anyone walking by a reminder that our prayers are necessary, now and always."
Glenn Powers, deputy under secretary for field programs and cemetery operations for the National Cemetery Association, lauded all those involved in seeing the statue program through to fruition, including the Guardians.
"This organization is a great example of how volunteers step up to make our cemetery system what it is. My hat's off to them," Powers said. "General Washington would be so proud. He would have understood that what he and his soldiers started has changed the world. The men and women interred here helped protect that change."
The 3-foot-thick foundation base for the statue was constructed by BJK Masonry of Havertown with the help of students from Williamson College of the Trades in Media.
"It was an honor to be asked to do this and it was truly a testament to teamwork," said Frudakis-Petry. "The Guardians were wonderful partners in this venture, and we all worked together for this day. We tried to capture a moment of peace in the hope that it will bring peace to those who pass by."
Langhorne Borough Police Chief John Godzieba, who has portrayed George Washington at crossing reenactments and other events for many years, played the role again Saturday and was among those who helped unveil the statue. Nationally known vocalist Lauren Hart, daughter of the late great Flyers' announcer Gene Hart, led the crowd in singing The National Anthem and "God Bless America."