Memorial Day Service Draws Larger Crowd Than Normal

VFW Post 9691 Commander Frank Longo, at right, joins fellow member Egivio Lurito at the Veterans Memorial Monument where they planted a flag during a Memorial Day ceremony. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  HOWELL – Township Veterans Of Foreign Wars Post 9691 Commander Frank Longo was saddened earlier this month noting that the usual Memorial Day service in the township would have to be cancelled due to the current COVID-19 conditions.

  That decision however was reversed by Deputy Mayor Evelynn O’Donnell whose strong family ties to those in the military, prompted the suggestion of a live service but handled in a social distancing fashion.

  “She got in touch with me and said we should do something,” Longo added and with a few phone calls the event began being organized.

  More than 30 people showed up at the township’s old town hall off Preventorium Road. Wearing masks, the mayor, deputy mayor, members of council, VFW members, police, firefighters and other residents came together to take part in the solemn ceremony. The brief service noted respect and honor for those who paid the greatest price in the fight for the nation’s freedom.

  One resident wore a T-shirt which had writing on the back that stated “Honor the Fallen, Thank the Living.”

  “Thank you all for coming out,” Longo said. He was joined by fellow members Ben Novick, a past commander of the post and Egivio Lurito at the monument where they planted a flag and saluted in honor of American service members lost in war and conflict.

  Members of the Farmingdale-Howell American Legion Post 178 were also present at the outdoor ceremony.

  O’Donnell said “we are honoring not only the people we lost who were part of the draft but those who joined and loved their country. They loved their country above their family. They loved their country and what it means to everyone because it is greater than themselves.”

  “It occurred to me that when my son left for Afghanistan for his sixth time he gave me this flag and when I think back on it, it is nice to have this flag and I would wear the flag pin and remember him. But when I really think about all of this, it occurred to me that he didn’t leave me with his picture, he left me with a symbol of the country that he chose to represent,” the deputy mayor added.

  “When he joined there was no war and by the time he left 15 years later, he had served nine times in an active war and I am very proud of him and thankful he came home. I realized he had learned to love the country greater than himself,” the deputy mayor added.

Attendees at the May 25 Memorial Day service in the township practice social distancing as they honor those who served the country and paid with their lives for the preservation of American freedom. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “Remember what we have, who fought for our freedoms and why we have them today and why we really need to continue to serve in a way in our communities to protect our freedoms,” O’Donnell said.

  Councilwoman Pamela Richmond said, “I want to thank everyone for coming because it was short notice. I want to thank the deputy mayor because it was her idea to work with the commander and to put this together. This is the biggest crowd we’ve had in the last three years.”

  “Be well be safe and remember those we honor today as we spend time with our families,” Richmond added.

  Councilman Thomas Russo said “that Memorial Day is the day we honor those who lost their lives serving their country. I would like to extend that honor to family members who lost a loved one. When you lose a loved one a piece of yourself also perishes.”

Howell Township Deputy Mayor Evelynn O’Donnell speaks during a Memorial Day Service held at the Memorial Monument in front of the former Howell Township Town Hall off Preventorium Road. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “I want to extend that honor and I’d like to thank you to the police and our VFW for all you do. We really appreciate it and thank you all for being here,” Russo added.

  “We want to honor all those who we lost in the service of our country and their families. We want to thank them for the freedoms we enjoy today,” Mayor Theresa Berger said.

  “This crowd is unbelievable with this virus going around,” Longo said. “We hope to see this many people on Veterans Day.”