PHILADELPHIA — Every year on November 11, we honor those who have served in the U.S. armed forces, and this Veterans Day is the first without one Wynnefield man who served his country and his local community until the day he died.
Hoisting Old Glory with an extra sense of pride is an annual tradition on Veterans Day, but this Saturday marked the first time a flag has flown on a proper flag pole above the Wynnefield Soldiers Monument.
Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones helped Wynnefield obtain the flag pole and dedicate it.
“They have paid a price for our freedom,” said Jones before a crowd of several dozen Wynnefield residents, “it deserves to be cared for.”
One man has done more than most to care for the monument.
Several years ago Wynnefield Residents Association president Michael Reid asked Andy Brutus, a local landscaper, if he would help maintain the monument.
Brutus, a veteran who served 2 tours in Iraq following 9-11, took it from there.
“Andy not only took care of this triangle he did it all throughout Wynnefield,” said Reid.
Andy planted grass, pruned trees and at his own expense added a cement walkway to the monument.
“I said Andy why are you doing that,” Reid recalls, “He said well Mike if a veteran who is disabled wanted to roll up in the wheel chair and get closer to the monument, this why I did that.”
For all his work, Andy won’t get to see the monument’s latest touch.
This past June at the age of 40, Andy Brutus died of a rare form of colon cancer.
“There’s a void and we miss him, we wish he was here,” said Andy’s older brother Charles Brutus.
This Veterans Day the residents association gave flowers to Andy’s mom Gladys.
And when the fire department rang a bell for the 42 vets on the monument – they added a ring for Andy.
“It’s bitter sweet to know he did this,” said Andy’s younger brother Daniel, “because he never really made a big deal out of a lot of things but when you find out things after the fact, you think wow he really made a difference.”
If you visit the monument at the corner of 54th Street and Wynnefield Ave, look at the names of those who died, the flag for which they fought, and glance down at Andy’s walkway to remember those vets who never stop serving.