Tony Gross, American Legion Post 245 commander, salutes the flag during the playing of the National Anthem at Jefferson’s Veterans Day observance.

Jefferson Township holds observance to honor local veterans

JEFFERSON – Mayor Russell Felter addressed a crowd of about 200 people at the Jefferson Township’s Veterans Day Observance ceremony Saturday morning.

After a musical prelude by the Jefferson Township High School band, Mayor Felter gave his thanks to servicemen and women, and announced plans to renovate the municipal building entrance in order to better commemorate those who gave their lives to defend their country. The remodeling would include the relocation of the memorial plaques for local soldiers who were killed in action, from the hallways of the building to the entrance.

“No offense to anyone who won a trophy in 1972 for softball,” Mayor Felter joked about the athletic banners currently adorning the walls of the municipal lobby, “but it’s time that these plaques be moved to a place of honor. And that’s where they’ll be in just a few months.”

Kathy Brandes, mother of fallen soldier Sgt. Gene Robert Brandes, Jr., lays a remembrance wreath with Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.
Kathy Brandes, mother of fallen soldier Sgt. Gene Robert Brandes, Jr., lays a remembrance wreath with Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.

Before a short performance by the White Rock School Chorus, Mayor Felter also took the time to honor the deceased, particularly Sgt. Gene Robert Brandes Jr., who passed away this past May while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. His mother, Kathy Brandes, was given a wreath to lay after the Remembrance of the Departed.

“It was beautiful, and the honor they gave my son was wonderful,” she said after the ceremony had ended. Sgt. Brandes joined the Army in 2006 and spent nearly 9 subsequent years loving his job, according to his mother. She explained that his unit and his family, particularly his 4-year-old daughter, Lillian, sorely miss him.

“He refused to call her an Army Brat; he preferred Army Princess,” Brandes remembered. “He was a great father. He was a fantastic son, brother, uncle, and nephew. Today being today though, he was a wonderful soldier. The best I’ve known.”

After the Remembrance, guest speakers included Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Cmdr. Mike McCorry, Cmdr. Jack Kane, and Col. John Scott Turner Jr. Each thanked the servicemen and women for their valiant sacrifices, and Congressman Frelinghuysen reiterated his plan to advocate better benefits for U.S. veterans.

“It’s our job to ensure that not a single vet, man or woman, falls through the cracks,” he said. “Not a single one.”

Also invited to speak during the ceremony, Brigadier General John Jeff Elam went so far as to remember General George Washington and the small force of his Continental Army, comparing their level of bravery to that of the U.S. Army today.

“We live free because over a million Americans have offered their lives for that freedom,” he said. “I will urge you all to never miss the chance to shake their hands.”

At the end of the ceremony, Mayor Felter took to the podium again for the closing remarks.

“I just want to say thank you to all veterans,” he said. “Thank you to all the men and women who serve now, thank you to their families, and thank you to all of you for being here today. We owe a debt that we can never repay.”

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