NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. hosted the 12th annual Essex County Veterans Day Observance in Veterans Memorial Park in Newark on Tuesday, Nov. 9. During the ceremony, DiVincenzo presented Essex County Community Star Awards to nine Essex County employees who have served or continue to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, including:
- From the Army, Tina Tyler and Vincent Mays from the Division of Family Assistance and Benefits, Kevan Kelly from the Hospital Center, and Detective Vernice Leon-Rodriguez from the Essex County Sheriff’s Office.
- From the Marine Corps, Mitchell G. McGuire III from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and Officer Victor Vazquez and Officer Joseph Morgan from the Essex County Correctional Facility.
- From the Army Reserves, Mark R. Bittner from the ECPO.
- From the Air Force, Sgt. Richard Calo from the Essex County Sheriff’s Office.
“Throughout our country’s history, brave men and women have put their lives on hold to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces at home and abroad. Our Essex County Veterans Memorial Park was created to provide our veterans with a place to find serenity and comfort and provide a constant reminder to the public about their contributions and sacrifices,” DiVincenzo said. “We are proud to stand with our veterans at this important occasion, give them our respect and thank them for representing our country with valor and bravery. Our honorees this year demonstrate their commitment to public service by working as county employees and helping us continue putting Essex County first.”
Bittner is a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves. He is a legal assistance judge advocate based at Fort Dix with the USARLC Fourth Legal Operations Detachment. He previously mobilized with the 36th Infantry Division with the Texas National Guard in support of Operation Spartan Shield, during which he was stationed in Kuwait. He joined the ECPO as an assistant prosecutor in 2019. “I thank everyone who has served their country. I get the best of both worlds: to serve my country and to serve our community,” Bittner said.
Calo joined the Air Force in 2019 and has been involved in multiple large-scale construction projects at McGuire Air Force Base and in New Mexico and Florida, and was recently stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea. He currently serves as a sergeant with the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. “This is an unexpected surprise. I appreciate the recognition,” Calo said.
Kelly is an Army veteran who served for six years. He has been a food service worker at the Essex County Hospital Center for nearly 30 years. “It was a privilege and honor to serve my country in the Army and it’s been a privilege and honor to serve the patients at the hospital center,” Kelly said.
Leon-Rodriguez, an Army veteran, was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. She currently is a detective with the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. “It was an honor and privilege to serve in the Army,” Leon-Rodriguez said.
Mays is an Army veteran who served from 1971 to 1973. He was stationed in Oklahoma as a data processing specialist and received an honorable discharge with the rank of specialist E-5 sergeant. He is a family service worker in the NJ Family Care Office with the Division of Family Assistance and Benefits. “I’ve never experienced something like this. It makes me happy and proud,” Mays said.
McGuire is a Marine veteran. He joined the ECPO in 2011 and currently serves as chief of county detectives. McGuire was thankful for the recognition and said it was an honor to serve his country.
Morgan is a Marine veteran who currently works as a corrections officer at the Essex County Correctional Facility. “I want to thank everyone for their support,” Morgan said.
Tyler is an Army veteran who served from November 1994 to November 2011. She was stationed at Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., for 10 years before being deployed to Bosnia and Korea. She is a family service worker in the NJ Family Care Office with the Division of Family Assistance and Benefits. “It’s an honor to be recognized, especially when servicepeople leave their children and families behind to keep everyone safe,” Tyler said.
Vazquez is a Marine veteran who currently works as a corrections officer at the Essex County Correctional Facility. “I accept this award on behalf of all veterans,” Vazquez said.