Bloomfield honors its veterans at annual ceremony

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BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield military veterans, police officers, firefighters, public officials and residents observed Veterans Day with a march down Franklin Street, from Town Hall to the Green, on Friday, Nov. 11. Assembled in Municipal Plaza, the group, by the numbers, may not have seemed like much. But from the moment the Bloomfield High School drumline began to play, putting the hometown participants in motion, to the final solemn notes of taps, the observance was as true and moving as parades down boulevards. 

At the Green, near the Veterans of Foreign Wars Monument, Alan Garth, the commander of Bloomfield VFW Post 711, spoke of gratitude to the assembly. For those being recognized on Veterans Day, he said, there is no question as to why they fought. They fought for freedom.

“And that freedom wasn’t guaranteed,” Garth, who served in the Army from 1995 to 2011, said. “Throughout history, veterans have answered the call and we have reaped the benefit.”

For some people who live in this freedom, he said, Nov. 11 is just another day.

“But we are here, we know the importance,” he concluded.

Mayor Michael Venezia also spoke. Seated with him were Councilmen Nick Joanow and Rich Rockwell. 

The mayor said that too many times, people forget what veterans have done for them, and he asked for applause for veterans.

“This is a big day in America,” Venezia continued. “I’m a believer we should thank veterans every day.”

Venezia said Veterans Day honors 22 million men and women.

“History has provided us with examples of their heroism,” he said. “It’s important we keep celebrating Veterans Day. Our veterans deserve our lasting respect, and we ask all Americans to say a prayer for those serving far away.”

Following the ceremony, three veterans told The Independent Press they were pleased with the observance. 

James P. Wollner, a Vietnam War veteran, said he appreciated that people still honor veterans.

“The only problem is that there are fewer veterans each year,” he said.

Joseph Ellmer, a Korean War veteran, said the uncertain weather kept some people away.

“But we had a few here,” he said. “They’re used to it.” 

Garth was wearing the VFW jacket of Frank Diveny, a World War II Naval veteran, who died in 2017. A number of veterans attending the event said they believed there were no living Bloomfield WWII veterans, with Thomas Stivale, a German prisoner-of-war survivor, possibly having been the last one. Stivale died in January 2020, at the age of 100.

Garth said Diveny was at first hesitant but, after being encouraged, would tell schoolchildren about when his ship was attacked; he would relate how 90 of his shipmates were killed and he was left floating on a piece of driftwood. 

“But now he’s passed and I tell his story,” Garth said.

Photos by Daniel Jackovino