Threatening rain showers held off just long enough for people to gather at Veterans Park for the annual Nov. 11 Veterans Day observance to honor living veterans who served in the military.
Former Mayor Glenn Wenzel, who has been master of ceremonies for many years, was again introducing program participants.
Invocation was by Ted Kershaw, VFW Commander Bill Johnson led the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, Laura Havrilla led singing of the National Anthem, Johnson and David Crum offered comments from West Milford VFW Post 7198 and West Milford American Legion Post 289 with the program ending with benediction by Ordained Minister Patricia Wenzel.
“Today, we honor generations of patriots who have earned the title of “American Veteran” – a badge of courage that unites the finest group of former service members the world has ever known”, Wenzel read from a Proclamation of President Joseph Biden. “With their selfless sacrifice, our Armed Forces have forged and defended the very idea of America – a promise of freedom and equality, democracy and justice, possibility and hope. We owe them an incredible debt that can never be fully repaid.”
The presidents proclamation went on to say that in every generation, American’s veterans have been willing to give all for that which they hold sacred – freedom, justice and democracy. He said they have served selflessly, sacrificed greatly, and shouldered the burden of freedom quietly, asking no glory for themselves. He asked that people honor them by living up to their example - putting service before self, caring for neighbors and working passionately to build a more perfect Union worthy of all those who protect lives and liberty.
“In respect and recognition of the contributions our veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 USC 6103) that Nov. 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor Nation’s veterans,” Biden’s statement read by Wenzel continued. The President encouraged all Americans to recognize the valor, courage, and sacrifice of these patriots through appropriate ceremonies and private prayers and by observing two minutes of silence for the Nation’s veterans.
Mayor Michele Dale, speaking at the ceremony, said those gathered in Memorial Park were there to honor service members and to remember their sacrifices and the courage it takes to defend honor, duty and country. She said those at the gathering were there to honor heroes, remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication and to say thank you for their sacrifices.
“Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter,” Mayor Dale said. “We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served. Thank you for answering the call to duty. You have made our armed foces the most respected in the world. The service members we honor came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than oneself.”
Dale noted that many of the veterans did not ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields and many did not volunteer.
“They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting,” she continued. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them – us – so much.”
The mayor recalled that since the first shots at Lexington and Concord were fired and the nation’s Revolutionary War began, American men and women have been answering the nation’s call to duty. Millions of Americans fought and died on battlefields here and abroad to defend American’s freedoms and way of life. She reminded people that today the nation’s troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifices.
“Even as we lose troops, more Americans step forward to say, ‘I’m ready to serve,’” she said. “They follow in the footsteps of generations of fine Americans. We have awarded medals to many soldiers, added their names to monuments and named buildings for them to honor them for their bravery.”
Nothing can ever replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member, and no number of medals and ribbons can comfort the ones left behind, Dale said. She noted that on Veterans Day, people throughout the country will gather together to remember, to honor, and to pay gratitude to those who have served.
“Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day,” the mayor said. “It’s not a lot, but it is one small way we can honor hose who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.”