NEWARK, NJ — Essex County presented the seventh annual Essex County Veterans Day Observance in Veterans Memorial Park in Newark on Thursday, Nov. 10. During the ceremony, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. recognized county employees Michael Festa, a U.S. Army veteran, and Clarence Jackson, a U.S. Navy veteran, with Essex County Community Star Awards. After serving their country, Festa and Jackson have continued to serve by dedicating themselves to helping other veterans. In addition, Essex County employees who are veterans of the seven branches of the military represented in the Essex County Armed Forces monument were invited to attend the ceremony.
“Throughout our country’s history, brave men and women have put their lives on hold to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces at home and abroad. Our Essex County Veterans Memorial Park was created to provide our veterans with a place to find serenity and comfort and provide a constant reminder to the public about their contributions and sacrifices,” DiVincenzo said. “We are proud to stand with our veterans at this important occasion, give them our respect and thank them for representing our country with valor and bravery.
“Mike Festa and Clarence Jackson are examples of people who never stopped serving their country, even after their military service ended. Both men have dedicated themselves to helping their fellow veterans, serving as advocates for veterans’ rights and raising awareness about the sacrifices that men and women in the military make,” DiVincenzo continued.
Festa currently serves as the Essex County health officer. He served from 1947 to 1948 in the 69th Division of the U.S. Army. He was an inactive reservist from 1948 to 1950 and was recalled in 1950 to serve in the 101st Airborne Division until 1951. He continued his service to the country with the National Guard and Reserve of New Jersey and was the North Jersey Chair of the Employee Support Guard and Reserve from more than 25 years. In 2001, Festa was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 20 years of service. He was also honored with the President’s Gold Award for dedicating more than 500 hours of service for each year of his service. He continues his work with the Guard and Reserve to this day. For the past 25 years he has been a member of the American Legion Post 185 in Caldwell, where he serves as chaplain.
Jackson, a Montclair resident, currently serves as the veterans affairs officer in the Essex County Division of Senior Services. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1974 and is commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 3 in Newark. He also serves as chairman of the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee of the Montclair NAACP, the Legislative Committee for Disabled American Veterans and the Essex County Veterans Advisory Board; member of the NJ State NAACP Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee, and Passaic County Veterans Stakeholder Providers Committee; co-chairman of the Essex County Veterans Stakeholder Providers Group and second cice commander of American Legion Post 251 in Montclair. He formerly served as commander of the Crawford Crews American Legion Post 251, member of the 8th Congressional District Veterans Advisory Committee and first junior vice commander of Disabled American Veterans. He received the Montclair Branch NAACP Tuskegee Airman Award and N.J. State Conference of the NAACP Soldier of Valor Award in 2014, the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders Veterans Observance Honoree in 2012, and the Men of Vision Award honoring a lifetime of service to veterans in 2011.