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FR&A Pictorial: Township Celebrates Memorial Day With Parade, Ceremony

Memorial Day Parade 2014

 

 

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Alex Fleischer, a World War II veteran, was the Grand Marshall of the 2014 Memorial Day Parade.

Those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation were honored in the township may 26 with a parade down DeMott Lane and a solemn ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Park.

Walking and riding the approximate 1 mile from New Brunswick Road to the municipal building were representatives from the township schools, Township Council, fire departments and rescue squads, Boy and Girl Scouts, marching bands and others.

“It was probably the best, biggest, most-attended parade that we had,” said organizer Bob LaCorte. “It was just a great, great, great day.”

LaCorte sent a thanks to those who helped, including township resident John Walker who supplied flowers used at the monument park for the ceremony, the suppliers of vintage Cadillacs that were used to transport veterans, his wife, Nancy LaCorte, members of American Legion Post 478, the Canal Walk Veterans Association and those who participated in the parade.

“We had a great time,” he said.

The parade’s Grand Marshal was Somerset resident Alex Fleischer, a World War II veteran who was wounded three days into the D-Day invasion.

Being chosen as Grand Marshall “feels great, it feel exhilarating,” Fleischer said.

The memorial ceremony was emcee’d by Nicholas Volpe, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel and Battalion Commander of the Franklin High School Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

The keynote speaker was Capt. Anthony Roberts, the Active Duty Training Officer for the New Jersye Army National Guard’s Brigade Special Troops Battallion.

Following is the full text of the speech given by Capt. Roberts:

Memorial Day 2014137

Capt. Anthony Roberts of the N.J. Army National Guard was the keynote speaker during the Memorial Day ceremony.

Good morning, on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief of the New Jersey National Guard, Governor Chris Christie, and The Adjutant General, Brigadier General Michael L. Cuniff, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

The first Memorial Day ceremonies were established in the United States after the Civil War. There was not a single person in the country at that time who was not somehow affected by the war and its aftermath. The end of the war saw peace, but also new conflicts. A nation had to confront itself and see (some for the first time), its failings as well as its strengths. And it had to move on, to grow. To move coder to realizing its true potential. These ceremonies were reminders not just of for what we had fought, but also what the cost had been. While the honoring of war dead has been something civilizations have done for thousands of years, we are unique in that we honor not just the dead but see in their sacrifice the defense of our ideas and ideals.

And each commemoration reminds us that they have given us a tremendous responsibility. To be worthy of their sacrifice and ensure they are not forgotten. To ensure that, while their sacrifice was what won the war, it is we the living who must win the peace. It is we who must live out lives to be worthy of the sacrifice they have made. Men and women who cannot be here with us today demand by their very absence that we create a peace worthy of their lives.

We have gathered here among these monuments here now for over a decade. Each commemoration is a subtle reminder that we remain a nation at war. Each year that passes sees names added to the rolls of the fallen. Sees lives given in defense of our nation and our ideas. Each year sees our warriors pass from injuries suffered on battlefields long ago, and each year sees the generations who fought in previous wars fade further from our present day and our memory.

It can give one cause to ask in resignation, “Why?” So many lives, so much blood, so many tears, so much wealth, material and potential given, why? Why do mothers mourn sons and daughters? Why do children mourn parents, why do we continue to fight wars, why can’t we all just live in peace? There are no easy answers and the pain of loss is not one overcome with words but only with time.

It is time that tells us why. It is the time that passes as we watch our children grow in a Nation dedicated to that proposition that all men were created equal. It is the time that passes as we watch our children grow and work toward a more full realization of that proposition and understand that the equality of man that we strive toward is made possible only in a society that is safe and secure. It is possible only in a society where there are those willing to step forward in the face of unknown dangers and say, “I will go. I will face whatever waits in the dark, and if I do not return, it ail be to ensure that whatever threatens you can threaten you no longer. I only ask that you remember me.” It is time that will see my place here at the podium taken by others and future generations, who will look at my fellow veterans and me and say as I say to you, we remember. We will not forget, we will continue to stand, fight and, if need be, fall, because we believe in something greater than ourselves.

There will always be those who ask “Why?” and the answer will be all around them. In the sounds of cars going by, children playing, people laughing, the smells of grills cooking (or in my case burning) food, the sights and sounds of a parade and fireworks, the feel of sand on a beach, grass under bare feet, the feel of a breath in the lungs. Why, you ask? So that you may have this. So that you may enjoy this day and feel the sun on your face, the breeze on your skin, and know what it is to be alive and free, that is why. It is the greatest treasure you can be given, ten treasure of time. And while the time of those we honor today was cut short, their sacrifice makes the gift they have given you that much more sacred and dear. Honor that gift and honor them.

Today, remember not just them but those whom they left behind. The parents, spouses, children and friends who feel their absence in innumerable different ways. Remember those gathered where a Gold Star hangs. Remember those whom you see gathered around a small white stone in a cemetery. Remember those where you see a folded flag or a faded photo. If you can, take a moment to not only thank them but to learn about the person they mourn.

In closing, I would like to share with you the story of a soldier of whom you’ve never heard. Private Peter Maiolino’s story is the story of countless immigrants who have come to the United States since our creation. He and his parents came here from Italy to a land of unknowns and with the odds stacked against them. They arrived penniless, without prospects, not speaking English, olive skinned, dark haired, dirty, hungry and standing out from the faces of the people of Philadelphia that reminded them of how different they were. They were not deterred. The Maiolinos became Americans and America became the Maiolinos.

When World War II arrived, Peter stood up, not as an Italian, not as an immigrant, not as a second-class citizen but as an American and said, “I will go.” And he went. His story ended on the battlefields of Europe. The Europe he left behind as a poor Italian kid is not his place of rest as an American hero.

60 years later, I was sitting with his great-niece, whom I had the privilege of marrying, and his younger brother, my wife’s Uncle Al, at a small family gathering. While there, an elderly woman approached us and greeted Uncle Al. I have never seen Al speechless before or since that day. This woman was Peter’s girlfriend before e left for war. From her purse she took out a picture of Peter. She had kept it all those years, at her side, every day. She had remembered. That small memento, a reminder of the sacrifice made by someone she loved that gave her the gift of time. A gift treasured at that moment by all of us gathered around her, Peter’s family, to include his nephew and great-nephew, veterans of Vietnam and Iraq, respectively; his great-niece, my wife; our children and myself. I can think of no more fitting a reminder of what this day is about than that small black and white photo of a young man who said, “I will go. Remember me.”

Today, as we depart here, I ask that you treasure the gift given to you by those who gave their lives in your defense. Treasure it and remember the words of Gen. George Smith Patton Jr., who said, “While it is important that we remember that these men died, it is more important that we remember that they lived!” They did indeed live, and live on through our desire to be worthy of their sacrifice. Thank you again for your time and may God bless you and may God always bless the United States of America.

 

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