JEFFERSON – The Township hosted two separate Memorial Day services, Monday, with ceremonies at the American Legion Post 423 in Oak Ridge and the William H. Flatt American Legion Post 245 in Lake Hopatcong.
Marine First Sgt. Gerardo Ybarra from Picatinny Arsenal, speaking to a crowd of almost 200 at Post 245, reminded everyone of the number of soldiers killed in each of war throughout history. He went on to ask everyone to recognize all veterans and to say thank each
Former Jefferson Township mayor Fran Slayton, center, with help from Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Battavio, from Jefferson, left, and Marine First Sgt. Gerardo Ybarra from Picatinny Arsenal, right, toss a ceremonial wreath into Lake Hopatcong as part of the township's annual Memorial Day Celeberation, Monday, May 26.
for their service.
“Give peace to those who are lost, strength to those on watch,” he said.
Carmine Maratta, Post 245 junior vice commander, read off the names of seven post members who passed away in the last year. Poppies were placed on a large white cross in their memory.
Mayor Russ Felter was brief with his comments, mentioning that Jefferson has lost “eight of it’s own in different wars…it’s important we don’t forget them.”
Felter also apologized in advance for the absence of the Jefferson Township High School Band, a fixture at all the Memorial Day Legion services and the parade that follows, was noticeably absent from Monday’s ceremony. According to Felter, the band was unable to schedule a bus driver to get band members from the high school to the Legion building, located on Espanong Road, something, he said, would never happen again.
Immediately following a gun salute at the American Legion, ending the service there, the parade stepped off, crossing Espanong Road onto East Shore Drive and ending at Brady Bridge. Members of the Legion led the parade followed by Sgt. Ybarra and his family and Lake Hopatcong resident Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Battavio and his family. Scout groups, sports groups, the police department and rescue squads filled the parade with the fire department trucks last in line.
Once at Brady Bridge, Father Christopher Muldoon, pastor at Our Lady Star of the Sea Paris, read a prayer, a ceremonial wreath was tossed into Lake Hopatcong.
In Oak Ridge, the American Legion Post 423 began with the Color Guard and the firing squad at the St. Thomas Cemetery for a service given by Commander Mehandra Lakhicharran. After visiting several other cemeteries in the area the group returned to the Post for a service at noon. The guest speaker was Lt. Col Brian J. Gruchacz from Picatinny Arsenal. A tree, donated by Michael Mele and Lorraine Rosen was dedicated in memory of those who have served in the Armed Forces of our country and planted near the Post building.