HOPATCONG – The borough honored local veterans Tuesday with an hour-long ceremony at Veterans Park.
The service included remarks from local resident Dawn Roberts, the mother of Sgt. Michael Kirspel Jr. who was killed in action in Afghanistan four years ago, Councilman Richard Bunce, Mayor Sylvia Petillo, a poetry reading from Cub Scout pack 194 and the ceremonial placing of wreaths.
Dawn Roberts remembered her son by praising the way his platoon, the Sons of Alpha, always keep her son in their thoughts, returning every year on the anniversary of his death (October 27) to be with her, telling stories and revealing little tidbits of his life that he purposely kept from her.
“I learn something new every year,” she said, standing at the podium with her youngest son, ten-year-old Samuel. “I have pried stories from his soldiers. Some are down right scary. Some are funny. I have learned that he was true blue.”
Councilman Bunce once again began with the somber realization of present day events.
“Veterans Day finds us again a nation at war.” He went on to praise the young people in attendance, reminding everyone that “they need to know” the sacrifices made by the men and women in service.
Mayor Petillo, in her keynote address, thanked veterans for their “personal sacrifice” and for the sacrifices of veteran’s families, asking all veterans in attendance to raise their hands and be recognized.
“On behalf of the entire Hopatcong community we thank you,” she said, also making sure to remember the two township servicemen who died in combat, Specialist John Curtin III who was killed in Vietnam and Kirspel.
Petillo also shared part of a letter she received from Captain William Andrews, an Air Force fighter pilot who was shot down and captured during the first Gulf War. In the letter, Andrews mentions how uplifting it was to receive letters and cards and packages while serving abroad, saying that his time spent as a POW was made easier knowing that American citizens were pulling for him.
The letter, said Petillo, made her realize “that a small act of kindness (toward a vet) can make a difference. We all have a part in thanking our veterans. Our part is to always remember them, not just today but every day.”