IRVINGTON, NJ — Anyone walking up Nye Avenue on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, would have noticed Irvington Camptown VFW Post 1941 veterans Tyrone Powell and James Dawson sitting on a stoop, waiting for the annual parade and wreath-laying ceremony to begin.
Powell and Dawson were ready to discuss honor, duty, loyalty, discipline and their experiences serving their country in the U.S. armed forces, as well as their appreciation for Irvington’s efforts on behalf of their fellow soldiers.
“I am the senior vice commander of Camptown Post 1941, located at 5658 Chestnut Ave. If you’re a veteran or family of veterans, come on by,” said Dawson on Monday, May 28. “I’m a former Air Force vet and I was a security specialist for four years. Memorial Day is to honor our dead, but we’re still alive and that’s a good thing.”
Powell is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from the Vietnam era. He agreed with Dawson that while he honors his fellow soldiers who gave their lives for their country, he is glad to be alive.
“Veterans Day is for all veterans and Memorial Day is for those that died in the line of duty. It’s a good thing that we can celebrate both days,” Powell said.
“There are a lot of opportunities that the military has to offer and a lot of these young kids they’re not aware of them,” said Sgt. Major Ahmed Moore on Monday, May 28. “So if they speak to lifers like myself, you know they can educate themselves on some of the educational benefits, medical benefits, housing opportunities that you have as a veteran. They also even have employment opportunities. So one of the best things they have going is you can go to school for free, as long as you’re active in the National Guard or in the Army Reserves. So that’s one of the major benefits. As long as you’re in good standing with the military, you can go to school for free — any state college.”
Dawson and Powell said that information is valuable.
“For the younger generation coming up, there’s a lot of negativity that goes on in society today,” said Dawson. “But if you go in the service and you can follow the rules and stick with it, it can set you up financially, where your family don’t have to want for anything. Part of that is the sacrifice of not being with your family, because when veterans serve, their families also serve. It’s a good thing. It gives you some guidance, direction and you can’t beat the camaraderie, because you make friends in there for life.”
Powell agreed with Dawson and added that military service is a good option, saying, “We tend to think that some of the institutions in the United States are not for blacks. I think more blacks need to participate in more institutions, every institution in America, because blacks are and we have been warriors since the Revolutionary War. We may not get the recognition that we deserve, however America wouldn’t be America without the black warriors that served in the military.”