Freeholders honor local servicemen at Veterans Day celebration

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NEWARK, NJ — The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently held its 2019 Veterans Celebration at the Hall of Records, honoring the patriotism and sacrifice of the men and women who have served the United States, and recognizing specific veterans of Essex County for their service. The Freeholders presented the honorees with framed commendations, plaques, and service medals.

This year’s honorees were West Orange Police Lt. Charles E. Bryant of the U.S. Navy, Victor M. Mandio Jr. of the U.S. Army, Edwin R. Matthews of the U.S. Marine Corps, Jorge E. Ortiz of the U.S. Navy and Juan M. Rivera Jr. of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Bryant grew up in East Orange and is currently a lieutenant in the West Orange Police Department. He served on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1982 to 1987, and was a gunner’s mate aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Independence. He is a lifetime member of the Police Unity Tour and has coached Little League baseball for the township of Union for the past 14 years. In his spare time, he loves to fish, coach, bowl and spend time with his four children, Denzel, Quincy, Jalen and Kayla.

Mandio, of Bloomfield, is currently a readjustment counselor with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in Secaucus. In this role, he provides counseling services to combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma. He also provides case management for veteran services within the VA Health Care system. He served for 13 years in the U.S. Army and N.J. National Guard. During this time, he served in Operation Noble Eagle in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005. He received many accolades for bravery and service including: four Army Achievement Medals for Outstanding Performance in the Line of Duty, two Army Good Conduct Medals for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Noble Eagle, two National Defense Service Medals, and a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Since September 2015, he has volunteered his time with Boy Scouts of America, Pack 22 in Bloomfield. He currently resides in Bloomfield with his wife, Jessica, and son, Jaden.

Matthews is a lifelong resident of South Orange and has served his community in many capacities including: municipal court judge, municipal attorney and member of the governing body, as well as a member of the Juvenile Conference Committee and a number of other committees for the village of South Orange. After graduating from the College of Holy Cross, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of captain. His service included a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam with the Second Battalion 26th Marine Regiment, including eight months as an infantry platoon leader. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, a Navy Commendation Medal, two Purple Heart medals and the Vietnam Service Medal, with two stars. His unit was twice awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, including one for the defense of Khe Sanh. After active duty, he attended Seton Hall Law School and became an assistant U.S. attorney, where the attorney general twice recognized him for sustained superior performance. He is now in private practice and his office focuses on litigation and municipal law.

Ortiz is currently a firefighter and first responder for the city of Orange. In this role, he responds to fire alarms and emergency calls, as well as traffic accidents, vehicle fires and other emergencies in an effort to protect lives and property. He served in the U.S. Navy from 2002 to 2007 as an aviation fuels technician on the USS John F. Kennedy. He also served as the aircraft launch and recovery supervisor/specialist from 2007 to 2009 in Pensacola, Fla., where he oversaw 50 technicians. During his time, Ortiz has received many citations and awards including: Citation for the Commander John F. Kennedy Strike Group, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Award, and a Citation from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rivera resides in Newark, currently works at the North Ward Center as a project director and was elected Essex County register on Nov. 5. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1991 to 1995 where he achieved the rank of corporal. After receiving an honorable discharge, his passion to serve the community inspired him to begin a career in public service. He has served in a multitude of capacities throughout Newark, including district leader for Newark’s Central Ward from 2008 to 2012 and currently as district leader of the North Ward. He was a member of the Newark Public Schools advisory board from 2009 to 2012, and served as chairman of the Personnel and Facilities committees from 2010 to 2012. He was also an aide to Newark Councilman Charles Bell and Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, director of constituent affairs for State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, and since 2015, he has served as the vice chairman of the Essex County Veterans Advisory Board.

Photos Courtesy of Glen Frieson