BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Veterans from the area, history buffs, and other nearby residents had an opportunity last weekend to learn about military history, honor veterans, listen to live music, and enjoy some down-home barbeque at the first Military Appreciation and History Day at Ross Farm in Basking Ridge.

The Basking Ridge Business Alliance, Ross Farm, and Ridge Family Dentistry teamed up to present the event, which was held on sunny afternoon and drew a wide variety of visitors.

"We can't do enough for our veterans, said said Greg Toombs, Events Director for the Basking Ridge Business Alliance. Shortly after the event was just beginning at noon, he said that if it was a success, the organizers would like to hold Military Appreciation Day again in future years.

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Everything was free, except for the food, which was served up by the staff of the Foxhole Cafe, which is staffed by veterans and is open to the public on the grounds of the Veterans Administration facility in the Lyons section of Bernards Township. Minuteman Restaurant in Harding Township was also represented.

Joseph Burnett and Richard Jacobus are two veterans from Lyons who attended Saturday's event. Burnett, a veteran of Vietnam, and Jacobus, who served in Grenada, agreed the festivities and food were a nice idea. "It got us out of the building," Jacobus added, as the two sat listening while the band Brotherflower was tuning up.

“In many ways, we don’t do enough for our current veterans, many who suffer greatly following completion of their service," Toombs said prior to Saturday. "We created this event not only to recognize and appreciate all veterans, but especially to raise funds for those who, like all the others, were willing to put their lives on the front line but have since found themselves in difficult circumstances. They are now in danger of being left behind and we cannot allow that to happen."

Raising funds for organizations that support local veterans

Besides creating a welcoming exhibit and a chance to learn about the military, the partners sought to raise funds and awareness for two important and effective organizations that support local area veterans: The Elks and MTI.

The Elks, with a local branch in Stirling, is pledged to end veteran homelessness and ensure every veteran has the safe, stable home they deserve. More information is online. Funds raised go toward “Welcome Home Kits” which assist formerly homeless or transitionary veterans when they move into stable housing.

MTI's mission is to create employment opportunities for veterans with barriers. Operating on the Lyons VA campus, their veteran-operated businesses include the Foxhole Café, the Maveric Driving Range and the Veteran’s Greenhouse. Find out more at www.mtinj.org.

Chance to visit Ross Farms

The day was also an opportunity for visitors to view the military displays on the grounds and at the Boudinot Southard Ross farmhouse, a historic home that is open for limited hours.

"I have lived in Basking Ridge my whole life and I didn't know that this was here," said Phil Heinold, who is a member of VFW Post 7858 of the Somerset Hills. He said that if the event is held again, the post might offer to have its honor guard join in.

The flags and an army vehicle at the entrance to the Somerset County owned property _ located at 135 N. Maple Ave. _ helped bring in people who were passing by, said David Becker, president of the Friends of Ross Farm.

He said that Elias Boudinot, whose name remains attached to the estate, reported directly to George Washington and later headed the Continental Congress. He was a very important person in the era, Becker said. 

Information on Ross Farm, and its history, is online.