Morris County veterans will be able to travel shorter distances for services with the opening of a new veterans service center and clinic on the grounds of Morris View Nursing Home.
The clinic and center were dedicated on Wednesday, June 6, by the county freeholders. The outdoor ceremony was attended by county employees and members of veterans groups.
Freeholder director Doug Cabana credited Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11), who is a Vietnam veteran, with putting in a great deal of time and effort to get the clinic off the ground.
This is the 10th veterans services center in the state. The walk-in centers and clinics augment the two Veterans Administration (VA) Hospitals in Lyons and South Orange, according to Vincent Immiti, medical center director of the VA New Jersey Health Care System.
“We owe our men and women the best care,” he said, explaining that staff members visit each of the state’s clinics to make sure everything is running smoothly. He thanked the county, and especially Jennifer Carpinteri, county human services director, for working hard to get the center established.
Carpinteri said that one veterans services officer and one community service worker will staff the center. In addition, the county will partner with some nonprofit and veterans organizations to provide services. The new facility has room for enhanced programs and for partnerships with other groups, Cabana said in his remarks.
“Our wish is that all of our heroes and their families come through the doors of this center and feel the respect and gratitude we have for their service,” noted Cabana. “We want them to know there always will be a cup of coffee and a warm smile for them at this new center from someone who is here to help them.”
The center is adjacent to the county youth shelter, and Carpinteri enlisted the assistance of teens at the shelter to repurpose some chairs for the vet center. Students also painted the symbols of all five branches of the service. Large medallions top the entrance to the clinic.
The freeholder noted that when he spoke at the county’s Memorial Day service, he quoted President Harry Truman: “The debt to these heroic men and valiant women can never be repaid.” Cabana said, “This is just a bit of payback.” He was joined by freeholders Heather Darling and Kathy DeFillippo and assemblyman Tony Bucco.
The invocation was delivered by Rabbi Mendy Herson, executive director of Chabad of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Union Counties and the Jewish Center in Basking Ridge. He is also associate dean of the Rabbinical College of America, which trains armed forces chaplains. He was a chaplain at the VA Hospital in Lyons for 11 years.
Another speaker was Gus Dante, government affairs representative and board member of Rolling Thunder, Inc. The organization advocates accountability for prisoners of war and service members missing in action from all U.S. wars. Dante explained the chair of honor, a reminder of those imprisoned and missing.
“It is a symbol that those missing soldiers will always have a seat at the table,” Dante said. He noted that there are more than 83,000 American service members unaccounted for from all the wars in the cod the Capitol building.
Also from Rolling Thunder were Joseph Kotch, a Vietnam veteran and board member of the group, and Elaine Martin, national secretary of the POW/MIA chair of honor committee. They presented the “table ceremony.”
Martin explained that the table is set for one as a symbol of the frailty of one person alone; it is round to symbolize the everlasting connection with people back home; the tablecloth is white for purity. On the table is a red rose in a vase tied with a red ribbon for the life of each missing service member. On a bread plate is a lemon wedge symbolizing the tears of their loved ones at home. A Bible symbolizes families’ strength through faith. An inverted glass represents the inability of the missing to share in a meal with loved ones. Kotch lit a candle on the table to symbolize the light of hope.
During the chair of honor and table ceremony, Faith Noah of Bugles Across America played taps. The ceremony ended with bagpiper Andy Kerr of the Rolling Thunder board playing “Amazing Grace.”
Many who attended stopped at the table to review the names of 40 service members from New Jersey who are still missing in action from Vietnam. The new facility was open to all attendees for tours.
The clinic is located at 340 West Hanover Avenue, Morris Township, New Jersey 07960. They may be contacted by phone 973-539-9794.