WEST ORANGE, NJ — Residents gathered at War Memorial Park in front of Town Hall on Nov. 11 for the town’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, honoring locals who have served in the military. Hosted by resident and Vietnam War veteran Joseph Brennan, the ceremony also featured the members of the West Orange High School Junior ROTC and brass quintet, and Elks Lodge 1590 Veterans Co-chairman James Cowan.
Brennan addressed the trauma military members endure and their need for support when they return home from deployment.
“Many veterans have committed suicide because of the trauma,” he said at the ceremony. “We should be honoring them. But reach out to them and give them not only applause, but the help they need.”
Mayor Robert Parisi highlighted the 100th anniversary of the first Veterans Day, declared a holiday in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. He shined a spotlight on West Orange’s ceremony.
“For 100 years, we’ve gathered at this hour on this day,” Parisi said. “West Orange has a long tradition of not only serving, but honoring those who have served.”
Parisi spent the rest of his time speaking about Colleen Blasi, a West Orange native and member of the Elks Club who died earlier this year. Blasi was a longtime supporter of veterans who organized charity events through the Elks for many years.
“She had the honor of representing West Orange at Arlington National Cemetery and placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Parisi said. “More than that, Colleen was kind and compassionate. She never said no to lending a helping hand. This ceremony and this community will not be the same without her. Thank you, Colleen.”
Brennan also recognized West Orange Police Lt. Charles Bryant, who was recently honored by the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders for his military service. A member of the Navy from 1981 to 1987, Bryant became a police officer in West Orange in 1993. In an interview with the West Orange Chronicle at the ceremony, Bryant said the recognition from the WOPD and other community members was nice.
In his remarks, Cowan stressed the importance of thanking veterans for their service.
“We ensure that they are never forgotten,” he said at the ceremony. “We have an equal duty to make sure the next generation honors them as well. Hateful ambition continues to threaten peace. It is only our service men and women who stand between us and those who could enslave us. As long as there are veterans, the Elks shall never forget them.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic