BELLEVILLE, NJ — American Legion Post 105 and Sons of the American Legion Squadron 105 had the honor of participating in wreath-laying ceremonies on National Wreaths Across America Day, on Dec. 19, planned and run locally by the township of Belleville and the Belleville Historical Society. Post 105 also made a donation of $300 to the Belleville Historical Society to help pay for the wreaths used at the event.
As listed on its webpage, Wreaths Across America is a national charity, wherein “our mission to remember, honor and teach is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 1,600 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad.” A person or organization can donate $15 to have a wreath laid at the foot of a veteran’s gravestone, or can volunteer their time to assist in laying the wreaths themselves. More information is available at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
Though the day changes each year, this year National Wreaths Across America Day was held on Dec. 19, which ended up being only two days after North Jersey was walloped by a foot of snow from a nor’easter. Despite the cold and the snow, veterans, Belleville residents and a Girl Scout Brownie Troop heeded the mayor’s call for volunteers to help put wreaths on the graves of veterans at St. Peter’s Church in Belleville. American Legion 105 had a color guard in attendance.
After the Pledge of Allegiance led by 105 Commander Joe Cobianchi, the national anthem, a short explanation of the event by town historian Mike Perrone and a blessing of the wreaths by Father Ivan Sciberras of St. Peter’s Church, Belleville Mayor Michael Melham spoke of the importance of remembering those who have served. More than 30 volunteers, including Post 105 Legionnaires and Sons, slogged through the snow to do their part in honoring the veterans laid to rest in the cemetery.
Following the wreath-laying at St. Peter’s, Post 105 drove across town to honor eight veterans buried at Glendale Cemetery who were killed in action. Perrone, who organized this event, had the foresight to mark the graves with a flag before the snow, and dug out the grave markers for these eight heroes. With only the American Legion in attendance, Perrone read each marker while a Legionnaire placed a wreath on the gravesite. The day was very cold and still, and the cemetery very quiet with only the small contingent of veterans present — all of which added to the solemnity of the ceremony honoring these eight men, seven of whom were younger than 20 when killed in the service of our country.
In a tribute to each killed-in-action veteran’s sacrifice, each wreath was placed by a veteran with a connection to that soldier or sailor’s service. Vietnam veteran and 105 Chaplain Nicholas Pietropaolo placed a wreath on a brother Vietnam veteran’s grave, as did Marine veteran Gary Cocchia on a fellow Marine’s grave. Wreaths were also placed by Post 105 Commander Gary Cobianchi, and by Legionnaire and reservist from the 716th Quartermaster Company Sgt. Ravi Persad.
Following all of the wreath-laying ceremonies, the mayor and the Historical Society came back to Post 105 for a presentation of a $300 check, a donation toward the wreaths used that day.
Photos Courtesy of Rusty Myers