By Judy Detwiler, Director of Communications, YMCA of the Brandywine Valley
Every morning, as Octorara School District secretary Jill Hardly passes the tidy garden decked with American flags, she thinks of her son, Brandon. Corporal Brandon Michael Hardy, a graduate of Octorara High School, was killed in action in Anbar Province, Iraq, in 2006.
The garden, just outside Hardy’s office, was created as an outreach project by the Octorara YMCA’s STRIDE program in her son’s honor.
STRIDE encourages boys to exhibit excellence in character in all aspects of their lives, make healthy choices, and build confidence through a curriculum that incorporates life lessons and running.
“Brandon loved kids,” remembers Hardy. “To know that his life can be an inspiration for these boys is just wonderful.”
On Sunday, November 20, more than 150 family and community members gathered at Octorara High School for the dedication of a memorial alcove in honor of Corporal Hardy and five other graduates killed while serving in Vietnam; James Rylee, Edward Folks, Theodore Mason, Michael Sheridan and Ronald Groff.
The memorial includes portrait engravings of each soldier, military seals, and a bronze sculpture.
The dedication ceremony included a Marine Corps Honor Guard, music performed by Octorara High School and Middle School students, state representatives and the STRIDE athletes.
“The boys learned a lot about Brandon and the pride he felt serving his country,” said Hardy. “I wanted them to lead the Pledge of Allegiance in honor of all the young men who sacrificed so much.”
The STRIDE program is offered by the YMCA of the Brandywine Valley at locations throughout Chester County. The fall program will culminate with a 5K run on December 4 at Downingtown West High School. The program will begin again in February.