HOPATCONG_Borough officials held a wreath laying ceremony at Veterans Park, Saturday, to honor fallen soldiers from around the country and from their own borough. This is the second time in three years that they have hosted the ceremony.
Precisely at noon, in towns and cemeteries throughout the country, tributes were held by laying Christmas wreaths courtesy of the volunteer organization, Wreaths Across America. Mayor Sylvia Petillo read from scripted remarks provided by the organization and the event lasted about a half hour, with three musical performances provided by Heather and James Kohler from the Byram Bay Christian Church.
“We gather here today at this memorial site and memorial sites all across America to remember that we are a nation with one flag. We are all proud to be Americans that live in a free society made up of many people, many races, from many walks of life. The freedoms we enjoy today have not come without a price. Lying here before us and in cemeteries throughout this nation are men and women who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom and without fear. We can worship as we see fit. We can raise out children to believe as we do. We can travel from one end of this great nation to the other and not have to ask permission to go. We are free to vote for whomever we feel should be in government office and we answer to no one but our own feelings. We have the right to succeed and we the right to fail at whatever endeavor we wish to pursue. The United States of America was found on the ideals of a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world. We thank those who gave their lives to keep us free and we shall not forget you. We shall remember,” Petillo read from the opening of the narrative.
Councilman Richard Bunce placed the first of six wreaths at the base of the Hopatcong Veterans Memorial monument, each representing a branch of the armed forces, including the Army, the Marines, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines. A seventh wreath was placed in front of the borough Honor Roll monument by Deacon Tom Friel, honoring its own two fallen soldiers.
Also participating in the wreath ceremony; police Sergeant Bob Hafner, First Class Petty Officer Mitch Ellicot, his daughter, Maggie, Councilman Mike Frances and Carolyn Albanese.
Petillo continued from the script to with the following closing remarks: “The wreaths before you represent our commitment as a United America to remember the fallen. We also want these holiday wreaths to symbolize our honor to those how have served and are serving in the armed forces of our great nation and to their families who endure sacrifices everyday on our behalf. To our children, we want you to understand the freedoms you enjoy today have not been free but have come with a cost that someday, you may have to pay yourself. As a nation standing together, we can defeat terrorism, hatred and injustice. Thanks to our Veterans, we have the freedom to do just that.”
To close the ceremony, Heather Kohler, accompanied on guitar by her husband, James, sang, “God Bless America.”