ORANGE, NJ — East Orange was well-represented at Orange’s annual Veterans Day Parade and Awards Banquet on Sunday, Nov. 11, which also marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“I’m living in Orange, attend St. Matthews Church, love my country,” said Raymond Spence, a U.S. Marines veteran who served as grand marshal of the East Orange Memorial Day Parade earlier this year, on Sunday, Nov. 11. “The VFW Chapter is 7923 in East Orange. They made me the grand marshal this year at the Memorial Day Parade. That’s why I’m East Orange and Orange. That’s just right across the street from each other.”
Spence attended the Veterans Day Parade with Master Sgt. Delroy McKay, who said it was his first time ever attending and participating in the event, but he’s glad he did.
“I just retired, after 39 years in the service,” said McKay on Sunday, Nov. 11. “I met Ray here and he invited me to this wonderful event. I had a great time and, hopefully, I’ll see some more of him and get some work done together. I just retired last month. I served in Afghanistan, Iraq — I had tours in both of them. I was in the Army in Germany in the 1980s, so that was a learning experience right there by itself. Desert Storm was a little bit hectic. We learned a lot. We learned teamwork, how to survive, and it was an experience.”
McKay said he wouldn’t trade his experience in the Army and the National Guard for anything in the world and Spence echoed his sentiments.
“We’re in the same service now. We’re in the Army of God now, just trying to stay safe on the street, keep others out of trouble and keep ourselves out of trouble. We’re in the same service now,” said Spence. “I love that we have parades for veterans in East Orange and Orange every year. We have to recognize veterans every year. Guys that went out and served their country. We were just lucky enough to come home, but you got people who lost their lives. We have to advocate for them. We have to say something for those guys who served and lost their lives for this country. We need a parade every year, two of them. We need a Memorial Day Parade and we need a Veterans Day Parade every year. I don’t care if one person come out there. We need it.”
Since Nov. 11 was a Sunday this year, Veterans Day was observed nationally on Monday, Nov. 12. State Assemblyman Tom Giblin was the grand marshal in this year’s event, which featured the Orange High School Marching Band, the Orange Fire Department and veterans parading up Main Street to the Elks Lodge 135, where the awards ceremony and banquet took place.
“I think we all, with some of these national holidays, have a tendency to make it a three-day weekend. This is a special occasion, the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day or Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I. I just want to say ‘Hello’ to all the viewers of this program,” said Giblin on Sunday, Nov. 11. “I had a great experience during the years I was in the United States Air Force Reserve. Basic training, all the different countries I was in and the actual experience itself made me a better individual and I learned a great deal of appreciation about what this country means for all of us.”
Mayor Dwayne Warren, City Council President and East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley, North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason, and At Large Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten also participated in the parade and the awards ceremony and banquet at the Elks Lodge.
“Today is Veterans Day 2018 in the city of Orange Township. As we do annually, we celebrate veterans. They came out today. We had a full parade down Main Street. We had a program here at the Elks, one of our great community supporters. Our marshal today was our good Assemblyman Tom Giblin. We thank him for all that he does. He fights for vets and this community on a regular daily basis,” said Mayor Dwayne Warren on Sunday, Nov. 11. “It was a good time for celebration. We had the ROTC here, so our younger generation got to see the service of an older generation. It was good to see them together in one room and celebrating one common goal and that’s the freedoms that we share here in America.”
City Council President and East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley is a veteran of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division who said serving his country prepared him well to serve his city and his community, after he returned to civilian life. He participated in this year’s parade with his great nephew, Jonathan Jones, who is a member of the city’s Pop Warner youth football team, and who came after playing in a championship playoff game earlier that day.
“They just had their playoff game. They didn’t win … but, guess what, they’re still strong in spirit,” said Coley on Sunday, Nov. 11. “He came out here in spite of the cold weather, in spite of the way that the game went, to hang out with his uncle, to honor those that have served this country.”
Former U.S. Army Green Beret Capt. Gregory Smack and his wife, Candace, were also at this year’s Veterans Day Parade.
“Another year. Walked down the same road again,” said Smack on Sunday, Nov. 11. “I’m fine. I got a little aches and pains. My wife is getting ready to take me home.”
Smack said he’s grateful for having a wife such as Candace and she said she’s grateful for him and all the other veterans, too.
“I really thank God for them all,” said Candace on Sunday, Nov. 11. “I thank them all. Words can’t even describe what they sacrificed for us. My goodness. I thank them all.”