IRVINGTON, NJ — Ed Kaiser, a Navy veteran and member of Camptown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1941, joined fellow veterans Clifford Beckley and Cheryl Turner on Friday, Oct. 26, at VFW Post 493 in Nutley to participate in Sen. Bob Menendez’ re-election campaign event for veterans.
Menendez, a Democrat who is running a closely contested race against Republican contender Bob Hugin, is scheduled to come to Irvington on Thursday, Nov. 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., to participate in a “Get Out The Vote” rally at New Jerusalem Baptist Church on Nye Avenue, featuring Mayor Tony Vauss, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke from New York. But Kaiser, Beckley and Turner beat them to the punch by going to Nutley to show their support for the incumbent Democratic senator, along with former East Orange Mayor Tom Cook, who is also a U.S. Navy veteran.
They agreed that endorsing Menendez made sense because he has championed veterans’ and homeowners’ causes throughout his political career. Kaiser and Beckley are members of the Home Savers group that was founded by Frederica Bey to find ways to help struggling homeowners stave off home mortgage foreclosure and stay in their homes.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army from 1969 to 1971 and I’m currently a member of Camptown VFW Post 1941,” said Beckley on Friday, Oct. 26. “I’m interested in what’s going on in our political arena right now, because what’s going on, I’m not proud out it. I disagree with MAGA — that’s what I call President Donald Trump, because of his Make America Great Again slogan. I feel like the country is really under a cloud right now that we have to get out from under.”
Beckley said the best and only way to lift that cloud is to vote, adding he supports Menendez because he has a track record of helping veterans struggling with mortgage foreclosure and other issues to stay in their homes. The issue is near and dear to Beckley, who said he lived through it and came out the other side with his home thanks to the efforts of Kaiser, the Home Savers, the People’s Organization for Progress and with support from elected officials such as Menendez and Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake.
Timberlake has been advocating for connecting struggling New Jersey homeowners with companies that help them stay in their homes. Menendez, through his aides in his local office, also recently intervened on behalf of U.S. Navy veteran Michael J. Carrano and his wife, Debbie Carrano, who are fighting to stave off home mortgage foreclosure and stay in their home on Livingston Avenue in Lyndhurst.
“We really have to be conscious of the people that we’re voting for to put in office. We have to put people in office that are like-minded like us,” said Beckley. “So that’s why I’m here. I’m showing my support. I don’t agree with all the rhetoric and I’m looking at just what is. When I was in need of support, Menendez’ office helped me get my veterans benefits, so in that respect, he supports the veterans and I support him.”
The Carranos agreed.
“We’re here to support Sen. Menendez,” said Carrano, who also came out to VFW Post 493 in Nutley on Friday, Oct. 26, to show his support for the incumbent senator. “His office sent letters to the Wells Fargo office, which put a stop on getting us thrown out and with the judge’s office after being evicted actually. Thank you for the support, Mr. Menendez, and for everything that he’s done for us and what he’s going to be doing in the future for all of us veterans. Thank God for Menendez.”
Turner, a former commander of Camptown VFW Post 1941 and the current VFW district commander for District 4 Essex County, is very active in veterans affairs, with a particular focus on finding and creating adequate, affordable housing for veterans on the old Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery site on South Orange Avenue, which straddles the border of Irvington and Newark.
“Nutley happens to be one of my posts,” said Turner on Friday, Oct. 26. “We had a thing with Sen. Menendez to find out what he could do and what the veterans need. So that’s why we came out here, to let him know and answer questions … so he could know what’s going on in our population and community.”
Kaiser agreed that supporting Menendez isn’t just a “veterans thing,” but the right thing to do. Those sentiments were echoed by Mary Anne Perez and Jose Perez Jr., the widow and son of Army veteran Jose Perez, who are struggling to hold on to their home in Wayne that was scheduled to go up for a Passaic County Sheriff’s sale Tuesday, Oct. 30, but thanks to Menendez, was adjourned until Tuesday, Dec. 4.
“I have a disabled daughter, my other kids live in the house, so I’m looking to save the house,” said Mary Anne Perez on Friday, Oct. 26.
Jose Perez Jr. said he’s just trying to help his family.
“I’m trying to help my mom with the little situation with a PP8 mortgage. She’s been in a little default with them over the last maybe year or so. I feel like I’m trying to see what our options are, to see if I can help her out,” he said Friday, Oct. 26. “They’re declining our payments. They don’t want the money. We went through a year of that, where the money was sent back to us. We even sent down double payments. They wouldn’t accept it.”
That’s why, Jose Jr. and Mary Anne said, they turned to Menendez for help and his office has been “helpful to this point,” so they came out to show their support for his re-election. Kaiser said, unfortunately, stories such as the Carrano and Perez families are all too common, which is why veterans and their families need a friend in Washington, D.C., such as the senior senator from New Jersey.
“We really appreciate him,” said Kaiser on Friday, Oct. 26. “Sen. Menendez’ office is very easy to work with. We can get ahold of them quickly. They act fast and, when it comes to veterans’ benefits details and help in crises, they’re right there. They’re very, very good. In fact, they’re better than we can imagine. We’re very, very thankful that they’re working with us and that he’s there to help us.”