SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Residents gathered at Meadowland Park to celebrate Memorial Day on May 27, reading the names of village locals who died while serving their country. Boy Scouts from Troop 60 read the names from World War I, World War II and the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars before dedicating a wreath near the Duck Pond.
“This is not just a day to pay homage to our fallen,” Rabbi Daniel Cohen said at the ceremony. “We recall their service with a debt of gratitude that can never fully be understood.”
Cohen, the rabbi at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, discussed wounded soldiers and those held in captivity as prisoners of war, as well.
“They are truly among the very best American citizens,” he said. “May this day of memory inspire us to act.”
Retired Marine Corps Capt. Ed Matthews, who hosted the ceremony, discussed veterans who have survived the wars in which they fought.
“Memorial Day is for those we lost, but also those who have served and survived,” Matthews said. “Freedom isn’t free. It has been paid for. I can never truly be repaid, but we can make sure our children understand.”
Matthews also talked about the 21 American soldiers who have lost their lives in combat since last Memorial Day and the many others who have taken their own lives after returning home from combat. He stressed the importance of mental health care for veterans.
“Those of us who served with the fallen served with heroes,” Matthews said. “As we remember our fallen heroes, we can never forget those who they left behind.”
South Orange Trustee Steve Schnall also spoke at the ceremony.
“Each of us came here this morning and made a small sacrifice, but we chose to come here and remember those lost,” Schnall said. “They gave their lives so that we might live ours and live in a land of peace and freedom.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic