Memorial Day celebrated throughout Irvington

Photo by Chris Sykes
From left, Camptown VFW Post 1941 Commander Penny Register and Chaplain Fred Mulligan and other veterans, including fire Chief Antonio Gary, fourth from right, salute as Municipal Council Vice President Renee Burgess, right, holds American flags and Irvington police Officer Ardwin Way, second from right, Mayor Tony Vauss, third from right, Essex County Freeholder Lebby Jones, third from left, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, fourth from left, and at Large Councilwoman Charnette Frederic, center, assemble in front of the town’s official war memorial on Springfield Avenue on Memorial Day, May 29.

IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss and the Irvington Municipal Council once again joined forces with the Board of Education and the veterans of Camptown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1941 and other organizations to celebrate Memorial Day on Monday, May 29.

“We’re just here celebrating Memorial Day,” said Vauss on Monday, May 29. “We had a wonderful performance at the high school from our children in the district, which ended with a march here to lay the wreath here at our monument here in the center of town. It’s just a great day to recognize and respect those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country.”

Several elected officials, including state Sen. Ron Rice, state Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Essex County Freeholder Lebby Jones and Freeholder Wayne Richardson also came out on Memorial Day to pay their respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice American soldiers in every war have made since its inception.

“Today means a lot to all of us. It means a lot to the country, the veterans and the families of those who are still around and those who are deceased,” Rice, a veteran himself, said Monday, May 29. “America is a great country. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the trauma of the Trump administration, but I think that democracy is the best way to go for all countries and we are going to be fine.”

Rice was impressed with the number of young people who came to remember the war dead on Memorial Day.

“It’s interesting, because I’ve just come from the Nutley parade as well and I’ve done a lot of parades and I’ve never seen this many young people come out for a veterans parade,” Rice said. “It makes me feel good as well, because it makes me realize that they understand patriotism and they’re learning a lot about history and they’re recognizing that the military is not a bad way to go. We all have a responsibility to the country and I think a lot of these young people that we see out here are going to be our veterans in the future. And that’s a good thing.”

He added, “There’s nothing wrong with serving your country” and “the country gives back” to those that serve in the military and other ways. He said the good things about the military are, “it’s free; they give you the education that you need; and by the time you come home, you’re prepared to go to work.”

“The plan is to go into the service, don’t hang on the street corner,” said Rice.

Rice’s sentiments were echoed Sunday, May 28, by Wilbert Austin, an Irvington resident and Vietnam War veteran who said he’s not a member of any organized veterans group, but is affiliated with the Veterans Administration Hospital in East Orange. He also agreed with Chaplain Fred Mulligan of Camptown VFW Post 1941 on the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is not for veterans, it’s for the people that died overseas,” said Austin on Monday, May 29. “It’s two separate days; Veterans (Day) is one day, but Memorial Day is for the ones that have fallen. We have our Veterans Day. This is Memorial Day. I belong to the Veterans Hospital up there in East Orange.”

Austin also agreed with Rice about the value of service and the opportunity to serve, that more youths and young people have the opportunity to take advantage of, whether or not they plan to pursue a higher education after high school. He and other veterans in attendance at the Memorial Day observance and service pointed to the large number of students enrolled in the high school’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps as an example of how military-style discipline, training and ideals seem popular at the moment.

“I think everybody should serve,” Austin said. “In some countries, they have to serve for two years or put in service for two years and I think that should be required here. But it should be required of everybody, not just middle class and poor people. It should be required for congressmen, senators and rich people’s kids too. They shouldn’t be able to opt out, like they could back during the Vietnam War.”

Mulligan, who also serves as a chaplain for the Newark Police Department, said Monday, May 29, “On Veterans Day, you honor those that are living and served. Memorial Day is for those that died, spilled their blood for the country, so that we can be free, and pray in any type of religion that we want to without being persecuted.”