Mount Arlington and Jefferson each held Memorial Day Ceremonies Monday, paying tribute to soldiers who died during service to the country and servicemen and women who have since passed on. The following is a report from each town.
MOUNT ARLINGTON - Under bright blue skies and fluttering flags from all branches of the U.S. military, Mount Arlington residents gathered on Monday for the annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony.
The parade, which Mayor Art Ondish said was one of the biggest to date, was a scene right out of small-town America as it wound down Howard Boulevard and Altenbrand Avenue, bringing with it Scouts, firefighters, police, vintage cars, music, and of course, veterans – waving from their seats in vintage cars, wearing their uniforms and holding small American flags.
After the parade, residents moved to Memorial Park for a remembrance ceremony. Councilman John Windish, Cub Scout Pack 60, Fraternal Order of Police #78 and representatives of Saint Clare’s EMS all laid wreaths. After a moment of silence, Mount Arlington student Nicole Storbeck played “Taps” on the trumpet.
After Pastor Roy Roderick gave the invocation, the mayor introduced the parade grand marshal, Richard Husni, a veteran with a long history of service to Mount Arlington. The keynote speaker, Major Troy Brennan of Picatinny Arsenal, paid tribute to his fallen comrades of all branches of the service.
“This is my first time in Mount Arlington, and when I was walking through the streets today, I saw a sense of pride, not only in your town but in our nation,” Brennan said. “This is not just a day to barbecue and relax, but to remember and celebrate the lives of those who gave all.”
In an emotional moment, Brennan said he lost his “very best friend” in the service, and that he still sees his face every day.
“We’re here today to respect their memory. When they joined the military, they knew the risks,” Brennan said, choking up. “It’s a hard day for me.”
He called the fallen military heroes “the strength of this nation.”
“Our brave men and women have fought to protect our country for 200 years, and they’re doing it today,” he said. “This year alone we have had 10 fall from New Jersey. They didn’t die to be memorialized by our words, they died so we could be free.”
He urged everyone to shake a veteran’s hand and thank him or her for their service. He also reminded people to reach out to families who have lost loved ones in the service.
In his closing comments, the mayor said he tends to say the same things during every year’s Memorial Day ceremony, but he’s come to realize why.
“The reason we say the same things over and over is so the youth will hear it, and so it continues,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk lately about hope and change, but some things should never change. There’s a time when the bill has to be paid, and those who don’t come back paid that bill.”
Ondish thanked those veterans in attendance for their service, introducing them all by name. The Mount Arlington Honor Choir Sang “America the Beautiful,” and Roderick gave the benediction.
JEFFERSON - The Township of Jefferson held its annual Memorial Day celebration Monday, beginning with a short ceremony at American Legion Post 245 that included a role call of eight members who passed away this past year. Carmine Maratto, Junior Vice-Commander at the Post was the master of ceremony. Mayor Russ Felter also paid tribute to the men and women who served and gave their life, reflecting on two local men who died while serving in the armed forces, 2nd Marine Lt. John Thomas Wroblewski and 1st Lt. Alexander J. Prezioso.
The celebration then moved to the streets as a parade of veterans, scouts (boys and girls), police, fire and rescue then marched from Espanong Road, down East Shore Road and onto Brady Road ending at Brady Bridge for the ceremonial tossing of a wreath into Lake Hopatcong.
After a short prayer said by Father Christopher Muldoon from Star of the Sea Church, a symbolic wreath decorated with red, white and blue flowers, was tossed into lake by former Jefferson mayor Fran Slayton, Donald Wehr, USMC retired and Cpl. Ruo Lin, United States Marine Corps.
Hundreds of spectators, parade participants, boaters and kayakers were hand to witness the event.
For Donna Abline, her daughter-on-law Erin and their family the day was extra special. Abline’s son, Rick, married to Erin, is a staff Sargent with the NJ National Guard and is in transition, on his way home from Afghanistan, after almost a year away.
“Last year was bittersweet,” said Abline of the Memorial Day celebration a year ago. “Because we knew he was leaving in just a few weeks.” When he left, she said, his youngest daughter, Audrey, was barely three months old and his oldest daughter, Brooke, had just turned one. Brooke is now two and is talking away and one-year-old Audrey is now walking. This is Rick’s second tour of duty, his first combat duty. He is a member of the 508th Military Police from Teaneck.
“We’re just really thankful for everything the military does for us,” said Barbara Ackerson, Erin’s mom.
The Ackersons and the Ablines have been Jefferson residents for over 30 years, and friends for just as long. They have been sitting in the same spot along East Shore Road for as long as they can remember, said Abline.
They will be there again next year, she said, with Rick taking up a seat along with the rest of the family.
Nicole Storbeck playing "Taps" on the trumpet at the Mount Arlington Memorial Day Ceremony.
Many of the veterans ride the Mount Arlington Memorial Day parade route in vintage cars.
Father Christopher Muldoon says a prayer before the wreath is tossed into Lake Hopatcong at the Jefferson Memorial Day ceremony. Tossing the wreath is Cpl. Rua Lin, USMC, Fran Slayton, former Jefferson mayor and Donald Wehr, USMC, retired.
The wreath is tossed over Brady Bridge during the Jefferson Memorial Day Ceremony Monday.
Jefferson Twp. Fire Co. 2 on the water during the Memorial Day Ceremony Monday.