Veterans Day ceremony highlights courage, selflessness

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Residents gathered outside Town Hall on Saturday, Nov. 11, to celebrate and honor the town’s veterans in a ceremony at War Memorial Park. Members of the West Orange Township Council and administration, and Mayor Robert Parisi were on hand to acknowledge those who have served in the military, including those who live and work in West Orange, on a chilly Veterans Day morning.

Parisi spoke at the ceremony, saying he has noticed that he has become more like his father as the the years have passed.

“I don’t know when it was exactly that I started to sound like my father,” he said. “But I’ve noticed over the last few years, more and more I find myself lamenting the good old days, even though I know — we all know — that the good old days weren’t always that good.”

Parisi said he remembers a time when American principles were different.

“There was a time when no matter how much we disagreed about a topic we still respected each other, we still liked each other. There was a time when no matter how much we disagreed with our elected officials we still respected the office,” Parisi said. “There was a time when symbols of this great nation, whether physical symbols or ceremonial symbols, were honored and revered because after all, to us, and to the world, they always represented hope.”

Parisi also spoke about the recent protests involving individuals taking a knee during the national anthem and the 2016 presidential election; while he did not get specific, he said such protests still convey a truth about the United States.

“Far too many Americans have not had the opportunity to fulfill the promise of the great American experience,” he said. “And there are historical facts and historical events that will forever tarnish the American story.”

Parisi thanked those who have served in the U.S. military to give Americans those opportunities. He acknowledged the 34 municipal employees who have served in the military; they work for the buildings, health, library, police and fire departments, and as school crossing guards.

Colleen Blasi was at the ceremony to represent the Elks Lodge 1590 as chairperson of the Veterans Committee. She gave a heartfelt thanks to all the veterans present at the ceremony, saying: “There are no words big enough, there are no words strong enough, there is not a smile wide enough. All we can do is offer our veterans a big thank you.”

The ceremony concluded with members of the council placing a wreath on the town’s World War I monument in remembrance of veterans who have died. A trumpet player from the West Orange High School band played taps as the veterans present stood at attention.

“This is a nice ceremony,” Councilwoman Michelle Casalino told the West Orange Chronicle at the event. “To have everyone here, and especially with the ROTC program at the high school as well, it ties in nicely.”

Casalino said she was happy to see West Orange Boy Scout troops at the ceremony as well.

“That’s where it all starts,” she said.

Photos by Amanda Valentovic and Courtesy of West Orange Township