Memorial Day Observed in Milton

By Maria Weiskott, Acting Managing Editor

More than 100 township residents gathered at American Legion Post 423 to attend a Memorial Day remembrance event. Guest speaker Colonel Hector A. Gonzalez reminded everyone that this year marked the end of The Great War some 100 years ago. Today that war is known as WWI, even though it was expected to be “the war to end all wars.” He noted that since the American War for Independence – the Revolutionary War – some 1.2 million Americans have given the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.

Colonel Gonzalez is stationed at Picatinny Arsenal serving as Project Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems, Program Executive Office Ammunition. He reminded all that there are still U.S. Armed Forces stationed throughout the world who are continuously in harm’s way. The Colonel also expressed hope that respect for the country’s troops will continue to be honored from generation to generation.

And it appeared to The Jefferson Chronicle that several generations were present for the remembrance service including veterans from several wars, as well as Boy Scouts from Troop 49. As if passing the torch of remembrance to a new generation, scout Beck Hedges recited the poem “In Flanders Field,” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. Perhaps one of the most famous war memorial poems, it was written during WWI; a fitting tribute for the war’s centennial anniversary.

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Memorial Day Observed in Lake Hopatcong

By Lise Greene, Copy Editor

Memorial Day was an occasion for somber reflection as well as celebration in Lake Hopatcong. The events of May 28 began and ended at American Legion Post 245 on Espanong Road. Highlights:

  • A solemn service of remembrance took place at the pavilion, with invocation and benediction by Father Chris Muldoon of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church.
  • James Conroy, Department Executive Committeeman of the American Legion of Morris County, served as master of ceremonies.
  • Flags were carried by Aaron Dworak and Matthew Kinsey of Boy Scout Troop 111, and Scout Nicholas Smeilus sang the National Anthem a cappella.
  • Captain Stephen Draheim of Picatinny Arsenal delivered a moving keynote address. He reminded the audience through personal stories that Memorial Day was instituted not to mark the beginning of summer or open the annual barbecue season, but to honor those who gave their lives in defense of the United States.
  • Mayor Russell Felter spoke the name of every Jefferson resident who has died in military service.
  • Conroy named five members of Post 245 who passed away during the previous year, while Boy Scouts placed poppies on a white cross and rang a bell in each veteran’s memory.
  • A firing squad saluted with shots and the playing of taps.

Following the ceremony, a colorful parade of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, firefighters, rescue squad members, and other citizens headed from the Legion down Espanong Road to Brady Bridge. Some veterans rode in an antique open-sided vehicle, while others joined in the walking procession. Scouts threw candy to the waving spectators lining the route, many of whom shouted “thanks” to the veterans.

At the bridge, former and current mayors Fran Slayton and Russell Felter joined Captain Draheim in tossing the memorial wreath of flowers into Lake Hopatcong. The firing squad offered another round of shots in honor of the fallen, as two members of Fire Company 2 saluted respectfully in the fireboat below.

The parade retraced its steps back to a picnic at the American Legion.

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Vets Continue 'Decoration Day' Tradition

By Maria Weiskott, Acting Managing Editor

If residents are wondering about the array of small American flags on grave sites in the township's cemeteries, there is a historical significance.

During the Memorial Day events, veterans from American Legion Post 423 placed the small U.S. flags on the graves of Jefferson Township residents who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces.

This practice dates back to the post Civil War period when the graves of fallen soldiers were 'decorated' with flowers and flags as an act of remembrance. Three years following the war's end, head of the Grand Army of the Republic declared 'Decoration Day' on May 5, 1868. The day was set aside as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Observation of Decoration Day was later moved to May 30, possibly because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country.

Following WWI, the day was expanded to include all Americans who died during wars in which the U.S. engaged. In 1971, 'Memorial Day' was declared a holiday by an act of Congress. The holiday was eventually moved to the last Monday in May, from the May 30 date.

The name and dates for the day we remember the country's war dead may have changed through the years, but the 'decoration' tradition continues in towns throughout the United States including here in Jefferson.

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