Essex County commissioners hold annual veterans celebration

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NEWARK, NJ — On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its annual veterans observance. This event is held yearly to honor veterans for their sacrifices and patriotism in defense of this nation, and to recognize veterans from Essex County and their contributions to the community.

This year, the board recognized U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, of Montclair; Montclair Police Officer Scott McGrath, of Verona; Julio Aponte III, of East Orange; and American Legion Post 105 in Belleville.

“Tonight, we honor those who have sacrificed their time, effort and — in some cases — their very lives so that we as civilians can enjoy a life of liberty,” Commissioner Vice President Carlos M. Pomares said. “So, to all veterans, we acknowledge you, we are humbled by your sacrifice and we are privileged to stand on your shoulders.”

Sherrill is the sitting U.S. Congress representative from New Jersey’s 11th District. Her record of service with the U.S. Navy is well known; during her nearly 10-year career in active duty as a Navy pilot, she flew missions throughout Europe and the Middle East, worked on the Battle Watch Floor in the European Theater during the Iraq invasion, and served as a flag aide to the deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. As a member of Congress, she sits on the House Armed Services Committee; the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and the House Education and Labor Committee

McGrath is a veteran of the U.S. Marines and in his 11th year as police officer with the Montclair Police Department. He was born and raised in Montclair, graduated from Montclair High School in 2000, and joined the Marine Corps in 2002. His first duty station was in Okinawa, Japan, as a motor transport operator and, in 2003, he was assigned to Camp Pendleton in California with the Amphibious Assault Battalion. In 2007, he continued his front-line service with the Marine Corps when he was deployed to Iraq and served as a machine gunner, manning more than 70 missions through Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq. In addition to his service as a police officer, he is an active member in American Legion No. 238 in Woodland Park.

Aponte is currently a maintenance supervisor for the East Orange Water Commission. He served in the U.S. Navy for 12 years in various roles, ranging from assistant command career counselor and work center supervisor, to first-class petty officer. As an active member of the Navy, he received many awards and decorations, including the Presidential Service Badge, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism and National Defense Service Medal. After his time in the service, he joined the East Orange Democratic Committee and later became the 4th Ward district leader and vice chairperson, and the Essex County Dems sergeant-at-arms.

American Legion Post 105 in Belleville has a long history of serving veterans, and the Essex County community at large, for more than 100 years. Post 105 was chartered by national headquarters on Sept. 9, 1919, just seven days before the American Legion itself gained its federal charter on Sept. 16, 1919. Started by 24 sons of Belleville who had returned from “the Great War,” the organization has been deeply devoted to the four pillars of the American Legion — veterans affairs and rehabilitation, national security, Americanism, and children and youths — for 103 years. In recent years, donations to cancer research has become a focus of their efforts. In the last three years, they have donated thousands of dollars to the Susan G. Komen cancer foundation, American Cancer Society and the Nutley-based Gail’s Angels Foundation.

Photos Courtesy of Lloyd Holmes