The purple stars were for the wounded, the gold stars for those killed and the black stars for those still missing.
The man said it as the crowd walked up to the shin-high chain surrounding the York County Vietnam Veterans Memorial, before Saturday's dedication ceremony began at the York Expo Center.
Brenda Bucher had already spent 15 minutes looking for her brother-in-law's name and purple star on the bricks laid in the patio surrounding the black granite memorial, more than 16 feet tall.
"I'll look over here to see if I can see it," she called to Ina Bucher, her sister-in-law, and edged down the line.
Brenda's eyes scanned one name after another. Around her, people focused cameras on the bricks they had bought for a husband or father.
She walked around to the back side. Bob Bucher, her brother-in-law, stood with his son, looking at Bob's brick in the second row.
Bob served with the Army's 25th Infantry in '68 and '69, and fought during the Tet Offensive. He was wounded twice -- he was shot in the leg and had his hands injured by an exploding grenade.
He was 19 then; 61 now, living in New Oxford.
"I just wanted to come out and meet some of the other guys that were over there," he said.
When the officials pulled the caution tape away from the patio entrance, people in the crowd stepped forward.
"There he is," Barbara Brodbeck said.
She and her four siblings bought a brick for their brother, Michael T. Carroll, who served in the Marines, fought and came home. He died seven years ago.
"It was a -- not the defining moment in his life -- but it was something he remembered and was proud of," Brodbeck said. "He never talked about it much."
Then the music came up, and Barre Shepp, veteran leader and master of ceremonies, stepped to the microphone on the stage before the crowd, more than 2,000 in chairs and hundreds more standing.
"Welcome home," he said.
The ceremony proceeded.
There were moments of silence and cheers of memory. An Apache helicopter flew overhead, banking as it passed, drawing awe from the crowd.
The wrapping came off, and the crowd applauded at the first sight of the three bronze statues, soldiers struggling under a flying eagle.
Otto Sexton captured the scene on his camcorder, pausing when his hand grew tired.
They read the names of the 84 men from York County who were killed in the war. Every now and again, Sexton, an Army veteran who was in Vietnam in '66 and '67, nodded along.
"Day," the voice boomed from the stage.
"Wendell," Sexton said quietly, finishing the name.
He did it again when they reached Calvin C.
"He was a good drummer," Sexton said. "He was a real good drummer."
They went to William Penn together and played in a band, The International Playboys.
Sexton was still in Vietnam when he heard Rice had been killed. He got word about Day, another high school friend, once he was back, while stationed in Colorado.
"It's just good to think about them, about the good times we had," Sexton said. "It's just good to think about."
The ceremony over, Sexton raised his camcorder. He panned back, and pointed it at the memorial for him, and those who surrounded him.
The York County Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands 161/2 feet tall. The black, granite column will include the names of 84 soldiers from York County who were killed during the Vietnam War.
The bronze statue is of three life-sized soldiers. Above them will be a bronze eagle that can rotate in the wind.
Sitting inside the Carlisle Avenue gate of the York Expo Center, it will be illuminated at night by spotlights.
As he addressed the crowd of more than 2,000, U.S. Rep Todd Platts (R-York County) thanked the veterans who too often were not thanked.
"One of our greatest failures as a nation was our failure to honor the courageous men and women who were willing to go into harm's way in defense of our nation in the Vietnam war," Platts said.
Col. Thomas Faley, the keynote speaker, picked up on the theme.
He remembered walking out of a hotel in San Francisco in his uniform weeks after coming home. Some called him a baby-killer -- someone else threw an apple core.
But, he told the crowd, those who served in Vietnam did so with honor, and the memorial was a fitting tribute to them.
Also of interest· Here are the names of the brave York countians who paid the ultimate price in Vietnam War.