Edison High School remembers its war heroes

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The real meaning of Memorial Day is meant to pay tribute to those who have died fighting for this country.

Philadelphia's Edison High School has always played a special role on this occasion.

At Edison High School both outside and inside Friday, people gathered to embrace a remarkable legacy, known as the Edison 64.

Sixty-four is the number of former students from Edison who died in the Vietnam War, and it is said to be more than any school in the nation.

Their young faces and names flashed on a darkened screen today, as 64 candles were lit.

Darryl Johnson of the American Legion said, "This is a story that reflects on our Community, the Edison Community and it's profound. To have so many students, 64, its unheard of, no other school is even close."

The Vietnam War raged from the 60's into the early seventies unpopular and divisive in some quarters.

Richard Sand who is writing a book on the 64 says many from the then all-boys' school chose to enlist.

For some, it was a patriotic duty.

For others a manly thing to do, and another factor high unemployment and gang violence in some neighborhoods.

Author Richard Sand said, "They could stay home and not have a job and likely get shot by the gangs? There were 200 gangs or they could get shot at and get a paycheck and wear a uniform."

Michael Bryant from Germantown says he was shot at by a gang member in 1967. He opted to enlist knowing he would go to Vietnam.

"I was either, get it on the street or get it somewhere else seemed like the best option to do something for my country and my career," he said.

So why did Edison have the largest number of Vietnam fatalities? No one we talked to today could say with certainty.

For those gathered it is something to be recognized, embraced and not forgotten.
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