All three Army veterans were Philadelphians who distinguished themselves in combat for their heroism and coolness under fire.
Two - William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron - were portrayed in the HBO World War II miniseries Band of Brothers, first aired in 2001.
The third, Michael J. Crescenz, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the only Philadelphian to receive the nation's highest commendation during the Vietnam War.
Now, projects aimed at remembering all three with bronze statues are moving closer to completion at locations in the city and Delaware County, supporters said.
The Guarnere piece - depicting the late veteran as an older man in uniform, standing tall on one leg and crutches - will be placed this summer at the Delaware County Veterans Memorial on West Chester Pike in Newtown Square.
A ceremony is expected to be held on the June 6, D-Day anniversary while other site work is being completed, Guarnere family members said. The statue, by sculptor Chad Fisher of Dillsburg, Pa., will likely be installed by August or September, memorial officials said.
The Heffron statue - showing the late veteran as a 20-year-old in uniform, with one foot on a set of South Philly steps - will be dedicated Sept. 17 in the neighborhood where he grew up, at Second and Reed Streets.
The bronze, created by sculptor Terry Jones of Newtown Square, will house a heart-shaped vessel in the chest with some of Heffron's ashen remains.
The Crescenz statue, depicting the soldier charging into battle with bandoliers and an M-60 machine gun, is expected to be dedicated by Nov. 20, the anniversary of his death in 1968.
Organizers hope to locate the piece - also by Fisher - near the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Penn's Landing.
In the meantime, the Philadelphia VA Medical Center on Woodland Avenue will be renamed after Crescenz during a ceremony at 10 a.m. May 2. The move follows action by the U.S. House and Senate in December and approval by President Obama.
"Michael is the only Medal of Honor recipient from Philadelphia during the Vietnam War and we need to honor this young man for his heroic deeds," said Tom Roberts, a Vietnam veteran who heads the Michael J. Crescenz Memorial Foundation, which has already raised $30,000 of the $60,000 needed to fully fund the statue.
Crescenz, 19, of West Oak Lane, and his squad were ambushed by North Vietnamese soldiers at Nui Chom in 1968. He single-handedly took out three enemy bunkers and six soldiers, and was charging a fourth when he was cut down.
"I always thought when I started doing sculpture how great it would be to make a monument to a person who really did something with their life, someone who exemplifies the virtues of society - honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, and discipline," Fisher said.
Until now, though, Crescenz "hasn't received a lot of recognition," Roberts said.
Heffron and Guarnere are probably better known because of the HBO series and their book, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers From the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story, written with journalist Robyn Post in 2007.
Guarnere, who died at age 90 in 2014, parachuted into France on D-Day and again into Holland with fellow South Philadelphia native "Babe" Heffron during Operation Market Garden, one of the largest drops of airborne troops in history.
They also fought together during the Battle of the Bulge, where Guarnere lost a leg to artillery fire while trying to save a comrade.
Heffron, who died in 2013 at age 90, will continue to have a presence in his old neighborhood. With his remains inside the statue, "his heart will always be in South Philadelphia," said Jones. Every piece "is different and exciting, but this is very unique, a classic."
What Heffron and Guarnere "did was extraordinary," Jones said. "These were average kids from the city who beat the Nazis."
Though Guarnere family members considered a city site for their statue, the veteran's son, Gene Guarnere ultimately chose the Delaware County Veterans Memorial, a location that is often visited by schoolchildren and is closer to relatives.
"My father went to schools all the time" to talk to students, said Guarnere of Broomall. "This way, he's still giving back. It's his legacy."
William Guarnere's story needs to be heard by future generations, said the veteran's granddaughter, Debi Rafferty of Broomall. "He's definitely a hero," she said. "He was my hero growing up, when I didn't even know about war."
"My grandfather never let anything stop him, never accepted a wheelchair and never complained," Rafferty said. "He didn't consider himself disabled and worked on cars and did construction."
More than $50,000 of the $62,000 needed for the statue has been raised.
"With the statue in Newtown Square, I can see my grandfather every day," Rafferty said. "We were very close. He was my friend, not just my grandfather."
How To Donate
A beef-and-beer fund-raiser for the Crescenz statue is scheduled from 7 to 11 p.m. May 9 at the National Guard Armory at Roosevelt Boulevard and Southampton Road in Northeast Philadelphia. Tickets cost $30. Donations also can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/CrescenzMOH or mailed to the Cpl. Michael Crescenz Memorial Foundation, 842 Waterford Dr., Delran, N.J. 08075-2220.
Contributions for the Guarnere statue can be made at www.wildbillmemorial.org.
Make donations for the Heffron statue at https://www. philafound.org/Donors/StartGiving/ContributetoanExistingFund/GiveNow.aspx?fn=Babe+Heffron+Memorial+Fund.