Giving Back

Concert for Northern NJ Veterans Memorial Cemetery

May 8, 2014 at 12:16 PM

SPARTA, NJ- The auditorium at Sparta High School was filled with music on the afternoon of May 4. It was a musical celebration to benefit for the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery.  The high school marching band and the choirs from Reverend Brown and Pope John performed for nearly two hundred gathered there.

Fittingly the program began with the Pledge of Allegiance and Star Spangled Banner.  Martin Schweighardt from the Sparta VFW Post 7248 gave some opening remarks before turning the program over to the musicians.

 The Sparta High School Marching Band, under the direction of Andrew Lopez, got the program started the way they do best.  The musicians marched to the sides of the auditorium, flanking the audience members with various horns.  The percussion was lined up along the back of the room.  They played a medley of the anthems of the Armed Forces.  Veterans in the audience were asked to rise when the hymn of their branch of the service was played. 

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The Reverend Brown Singers came to the stage.  Under the direction of Deborah O'Brien and accompanied on the piano by Sue Tsay, the elementary and middle school aged children performed seven songs.  They began their program with Rockin Robin and My Country Tis of Thee. They were accompanied by third grade cellist Collin Tsay in singing  O Beautiful For Spacious Skies.  They continued with Yankee Doodle and This Land is Your Land.  Student Kristin Tsay played the violin while the chorus sang A Child's Prayer.  They concluded with an interpretation of three songs by George M Cohan Yankee that included choreography and the audience clapping along.

Next to the stage were there members of the Pope John Choir under the direction of Karen Scott and accompanied by Deborah O'Brien.  The first song they sang was Rhythm of Life accompanied by Melva Cummings.  They sang Set Me as a Seal next.   Karen Scott's son Jonathan Scott then performed a solo of You Raise Me Up.  The full choir then sang Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Hear, O Lord and Eternal Father, Strong to Save. 

The audience was asked to rise and join him in singing God Bless America.  Then all of the singers came together to sing Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor and finished with Battle Hymn of the Republic. 

Wallkill Valley Chapter 1002 of the Vietnam Veterans of America's  John Harrigan has spearheaded the campaign to have a veterans cemetery in Sussex county.  He began 2008, when the Board of Chosen Freeholders told him there was not much they could do to get it started.   

 "Never did I think I would end up running this," Harrigan said. He explained, "The nearest veterans cemetery is over three hours away and they are getting full."  This facility will be open to veterans and their spouses from all wars and all branches of the military.  They will need to continue fundraising because this has to be a private facility.  The permits, site preparation, architectural plans and excavation work have been paid for through private donations and fundraising efforts, coordinated by Harrigan.

There will be a fundraiser Fashion Show at the Sussex County Technical School on Thursday, May 22.  Last year this event raised thirteen thousand dollars.  The event encompasses many different ways to make a donation to this cause.  There are the tickets sales, sponsorship opportunities, donations to fly a flag on the Vo-tech's grounds on the day of the fashion show.  Additional information is available at

These efforts have led to securing a 66 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Sussex County Vo-Tech.  The land provided by the Sussex County Freeholders will be the site of The Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery.  There is a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for May 31.  Further information can be found at

The Wallkill Valley Chapter of the VVA meets on the fourth Sunday of each month at the St Francis De Sales Church in Vernon.  There is also a meeting of Veterans Helping Veterans every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

An album of additional photos can be viewed on The Alternative Press of Sparta facebook page

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