JACKSON – It was a day of fun, food, family and music wrapped in red, white and blue but the true meaning of the holiday wasn’t lost along the way during the township’s Memorial Day Parade and service held afterwards.
Jackson’s tribute to America’s fallen from the armed forces began with a parade which included various scouting organizations, church groups, the township’s two high school bands, emergency response units and various veteran organizations.
The parade lined up at Holman Elementary and proceeded down Manhattan Street and through Johnson Park where a memorial ceremony was held.
Both events were co-sponsored by the Jackson Township Police Department’s Police Benevolent Association No. 168 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4703. Police Officer Mike Basso served as parade coordinator for the second year in a row.
“We lucked out with today’s weather,” Basso said. “We have some veterans groups among the 20 or 30 organizations we have participating in the parade.”
The front of the Holman school was a staging area for those ready to march or drive down the parade route. It also proved a good place for group shots which the leaders of Cub Scout Pack 204 did as their nine members assembled.
Six members of the Winding Ways Association assembled. Member Dave Gould said the veterans organization has 50 members.
Fellow member Richard Pudlin said that Winding Ways is the only one of the township’s four 55 and older gated communities that have such a veterans organization made up of those who served in a branch of the military.
“We mostly have World War II, Korean War and Vietnam war veterans,” Gould said.
Marvin Stern added, “I’ve been a member of the group since it started three years ago. We’ve done the parade each year.”
Caroline White serves as chaplain of the Jackson American Legion Post 504. She joined the members of the Legion who also marched in the parade.
“The (Jackson) VFW has a nice tradition as they invite veterans and their families to come for refreshments afterwards. My uncle was killed on Christmas eve while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge,” she said. That battle, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, took place from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25 1945, and was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. Her husband, John White, joined his fellow parishioners and its Knights of Columbus Council 6201 from the Church of St. Monica.
Legion member Barry J. Kakos took the opportunity to promote the June 3 Golf Tournament fundraiser for the state’s Mission of Honor program.
The Mission of Honor is a long-term project, following local, state and national laws, in cooperation with funeral directors, the federal Veterans Administration, and the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs with interments at Brigadier General William C Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
Likewise, Jackson Elks members had fliers on hand for the NJ Elks Veterans and Motorcycle Committee’s 7th Annual Jim Hall Memorial benefit for Homeless Veterans Picnic and Ride to be held on June 22 at the Jackson Elks Lodge at 1059 East Veterans Highway. For information on that fundraiser call 732-363-4101 or e-mail jimHallHomelessVets@gmail.com.
Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts riding in a wooden miniature pirate ship, fire trucks, construction trucks, ambulances, police vehicles and the occasional float and classic car made their way down the parade route.
Vice Council President Barry Calogero jokingly took credit for the sunshine and mild temperatures of the morning as he joined Council President Robert Nixon and Councilman Andrew Kern. Councilman Ken Bressi, a U.S. Marine veteran, would serve as the speaker of the day at the service following the parade.
“It is an honor and a privilege to have been asked once again to speak for this occasion. I really want the message to reach young people and if I can get even two to four to remember it, well, it’s a good day,” Bressi said prior to the start of the service.
During the service, Bressi shared his message which was, “Take a moment out and think about all your freedoms.”
“Try to pull out the fact of what this day is all about which is honoring those who gave the supreme sacrifice. Think of the gold star families who today will place a flag and flowers on the graves of their loved ones. I want to get the point across of the high cost of our freedom. No one is saying go home and mourn for the year, just think about the freedoms you have and remember someone gave their life for them,” he said. Basso, also a US Marine veteran, thanked those who attended and those responsible for making the two events a success. He thanked Jackson VFW members Allan Eliason, Chris Montana and Brad Whiting for their participation in the service along with Devin LaCross a Police Explorer and Jackson Memorial High School student who played taps at the close of the ceremony.