When the pomp of the Mount Arlington’s Memorial Day parade quieted down Monday morning, a hundred people gathered on the circular expanse of Memorial Park to lay five wreaths among the flags, and remember the sacrifices of the country’s veterans.
“Today we pause to remember all those across America who gave their lives for the way of life we all share. We can pay our fallen no greater honor than to cherish our sacred legacy of freedom and make it clear that we are committed to its preservation, whatever the cost,” said keynote speaker Brig. Gen. John McGuiness, commander of Picatinny Arsenal.
“They were ordinary men and women put in extraordinary times who did extraordinary things. We are here to respect the memory of those who became part of something larger than themselves. We honor the memory of those who not only answered the call to arms, but risked everything, even their lives, to defend America and its interests. Our patriots who laid down their lives for us have left behind spouses, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, uncles, nieces and other loved
ones in order to serve valiantly for our country. So today I think it only right that we pause to remember those families and their sacrifices as well.”
Veterans in the audience, some two dozen, were recognized by name by Mayor Arthur R. Ondish during the ceremony, including parade Grand Marshall Dr. Leo Lewin, who served in the Army Air Force during World War II.
Mount Arlington Patrolman Matthew Fortunato, who served two tours of duty as a Marine in Iraq between 2005 and 2009, placed one of five wreaths during the ceremony, but has long attended remembrances.
“It’s good for the community, especially for the younger generation to take time out to recognize those who gave their lives.” It was an awareness that he grew up with.
“My grandfather was a veteran of the Korean War. So we grew up with a better understanding of sacrifices that people in military make and the freedoms we have in this country.”
The ceremony is the culmination of a parade that kicked off at Mount Arlington Public School and traveled up Howard Boulevard to the park. Parade goers gathered in front of Napoli’s Pizza and Mount Arlington Library waving to cars carrying Grand Marshall Dr. Leo Lewin, dignitaries and veterans. Classic cars, jeeps and the town’s fire engines passed by, as did a crowd of youngsters involved in scouting, sports and dance.
As the hour-long ceremony wound up with Amazing Grace played by Rory O’Moore Pipes and Drums, families gathered their things and paused to chat.
John Driscoll, Mount Arlington, who served in the Marines in the late 1970s, said he was pleased by the number of people attending.
“It’s amazing to see people turn out. The turn out gets bigger every year and the parade gets bigger every year. People are so energized when they get here. It’s a positive message. And the children are starting to see what’s going on. They don’t fully understand the whole thing, but they get the idea that it’s more than a day off from school.”