BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - A crowd gathered on Saturday on a beautiful brisk morning for the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Berkeley Heights. "Today is the day to remember the spirit of patriotism, the love of our country, and sacrifice by the men and women -- who not only served in the past, but serve today," said Ted Romankow.

Mayor Bob Woodruff reminded the large crowd that the newly renovated memorial is Berkeley Heights' place to heal and take time for remembrance. "Every time we come here, we remember those who have fought, given their lives, come home, and continue to serve us," said Woodruff. "Please take the opportunity today to thank those men that didn't get the thanks 40 years ago when they came back. We will always be grateful to them."

Woodruff spoke of the forefathers of generations past that served in the military with honor, distinction and with bravery. "They came home to acclimation."  

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When the soldiers were called to fight in Vietnam, "they knew what their forefathers had done. They wanted to serve their country. They were told that this war had to be fought to stop the surge of communism. They stepped up. They went to a small nation in south east Asia -- just like their forefathers before them, they bled and they died -- and they gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Woodruff. --- "They served with distinction and watched their friends die. They did the same things their forefathers had done, but the nation turned their back on them." 

Woodruff spoke of the Vietnam veterans specifically because of the mistreatment upon their return and how the nation has healed over the past 40 years, possibly through the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"We stand here today, at this memorial, and this is this township's opportunity to heal," said Woodruff. 

The wreath was presented on the memorial and a bell was rung to honor each of the township's residents who served in World War II who paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

Reverend Diane Ruffle provided the closing prayer and thanked all who have served -- "Our freedom is a gift -- we are all so lucky to have it. It is a gift that we are meant not to abuse. Those who have served have stepped up with honor and make sure we are always free. So, from my heart, thank you all."

The Union High School ROTC posted the colors and Father Andy Prachar of Little Flower Church opened the ceremony with an Invocation. In attendance were members of the Berkeley Heights VFW Post 6259, members of the Veterans Memorial Restoration Committee, Councilmen Craig Pastore, Michael D'Aquila, Marc Faecher, and Manny Couto along with members of the Police, Fire and Rescue Squad, DPW, Township and County employees.

Everyone was invited to the VFW Post for a pancake breakfast prepared by the Berkeley YMCA. Close to 80 people enjoyed the breakfast and stayed for the annual Veterans Day recognition ceremony at the post that began at 11:11 a.m.       

Photo credits: Bobbie Peer