WEST MILFORD — Veterans Day began with an overcast sky and some drizzle. By 11 a.m., when about 100 citizens gathered for the township's annual Veterans Day ceremony at the monument in front of town hall, the drizzle had stopped but the clouds remained.
Glenn Wenzel, president of the West Milford Veterans Council, was the master of ceremonies. Rev. Patricia Wenzel said prayers at the beginning and end of the 15-minute ceremony. She read from scripture, quoting John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
Mayor Bettina Bieri followed, telling of the commitment veterans have to this country.
"Veterans are the epitome of American nationalism. Veterans hold a more zealous connection to this nation than the majority of ordinary citizens," said Bieri. "Veterans set aside their personal lives, goals, and ambitions in order to serve. This unselfish commitment to the United States is unparalleled by any other service. Without their bravery, the American dream would perish."
Both commanders of the Veterans of Foreign War and the American Legion, William Johnson and Bob Allwood respectively, spoke as well.
Johnson started his statement proudly with "I am an American veteran." He gave a nod to the generosity of veterans as a whole, noting that veterans in town are part of many charitable organizations. He also commented on the small number of servicemen and women in today's military.
Years ago, he said there would have been thousands in attendance at the Veterans Day ceremony because everyone knew a vet. Today, just 1 percent of Americans are part of the armed forces, he noted.
And Johnson quoted from the poem, "It's the Veteran," author unknown.
"It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble."
It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician, Who has given us the right to vote."
Bieri also reminded those in attendance to show their gratitude not just on Veterans Day.
"Veterans Day is only one day in November," said Bieri. "Yet it is indeed every day that we take advantage of our opportunities as Americans, and every day that we should pay tribute to those whose unselfish service protected us and our way of life."
- Linda Smith Hancharick