Montgomery Honors Veterans with ObservancePosted on November 17, 2017
Marking the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Montgomery Township came together last Saturday to honor its veterans at the Township’s Memorial. Braving chilly but sunny weather, the turn-out at Montgomery Veterans Park was among the highest so far for Montgomery’s 7th annual Veterans Day Observance. Themes running through the event included appreciation of the honorable role veterans have played in our country and township history and awareness of the issues veterans face today.
“Montgomery is named for General Richard Montgomery, who fought bravely for this country’s freedom and fell during the battle of Quebec during the Revolutionary War in 1775. Our Memorial is here to pays tribute to every known Montgomery resident who has given military service to our country since that time – we thank you,” said Mayor Ed Trzaska.
The event began with moving renditions on bag pipe by Mike Ahnell. Soon after, a procession moved down Harlingen Road towards the Memorial, led by the Montgomery High School Marching Band and Color Guard, directed by music teacher Kawika Kahalehoe. The band was followed by Township boy scouts from both Troop 46 and 850, Cub Packs 185 and 850, and girl scouts from Troops 61215, 60193 and 600099, who later offered special pins to all veterans at the ceremony. First responders and equipment from Fire Companies 45 and 46 and Montgomery EMS closed the procession.
Montgomery Veterans Memorial Committee (MVMC) Chairperson and event organizer Michael Maloney, who is a Marine Corps veteran and lay chaplain, offered the invocation and opening remarks. MVMC member Peter Rayner, a Navy Veteran and retired Administrator of Montgomery Township, served as Master of Ceremonies. The event’s guest speaker was Rolling Thunder representative Joseph Kotch, a Vietnam War veteran who served a total of eight years in the Navy. Rolling Thunder is a national veteran’s support organization committed to helping veterans of all American Wars and educating the public on POW-MIA issues. The perpetually empty POW/MIA Chair of Honor was present at the ceremony. As of October, 2017, there are 82,427 American service members who remain unaccounted for.
Others offering reflections included US Congressman Leonard Lance, NJ Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Boy Scout Srikar Surapanen, Girl Scout Julia Garaffa, Mayor Ed Trzaska, and Township Administrator Donato Nieman. Also present was Montgomery Township Committee member Patricia Graham (liaison to the MVMC), former Mayor Donald Matthews (MVMC), and Township Attorney Kristina Hadinger.
Adding a special touch this year, costumed military reenactors from the Civil War and WWII eras set up realistic encampments and equipment, including jeeps and a MASH-style first aid tent organized by Dr. Harel Rosen (MVMC). Reenactor groups included the 6th New York Artillery, 9th Division WWII Historical Preservation Society, and 45th Infantry Division Reenactor Venturing Crew/WWII Recreation Association.
Reenactor Robert Costello, posing as President Abraham Lincoln to whom he bears a startling resemblance, sat silently watching the ceremony, flanked by a guard of civil war soldiers. His presence was particularly fitting, as President Lincoln, during his second inaugural address towards the end of the civil war, said that America’s work is: “To bind up the nations wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan …” The Memorial location also boasts a “Gettysburg Address Witness Honey Locust” sapling, planted several years ago, grown from the seed of a still living locust tree which born witness to Lincoln’s address, 154 years ago.
The ceremony closed with Retirement of the Colors and Taps. The first verse of Taps was played by trumpet soloist Mati Orlow-Ng, followed by the marching band. A very realistic demonstration of cannon fire using only powder was made by the civil war reenactors group, which took every safety precaution while educating the public.
“Veterans Day is a state of mind and here in Montgomery Township, our remembrance of our Nation’s Veterans, their service and great sacrifice is a mindset rooted in action well beyond any 24 hour period found on a calendar,” summed up MVMC Chairperson Mike Maloney. “We invite and remind everyone to always be mindful of just what has been provided them by our veterans – our yesterday, our today, and our tomorrow, as we know it,” he concluded.