As Memorial Day approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to the sacrifices that have been made by Union County residents while serving in the U.S. military.

Each year on this day, thousands of Union County residents from all walks of life, including my colleagues on the Freeholder Board and many County employees, join in commemorative ceremonies and activities to keep the memory of the deceased alive in our hearts.

One of Union County’s long-running traditions is the distribution of tens of thousands of American flags to veterans’ groups and civic organizations like the Boy Scouts. Members of these groups fan out across the cemeteries of Union County each Memorial Day to ensure that every veteran’s grave is visited, recognized and honored.

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This year, we felt that it was important to establish a new tradition of reaching out, recognizing and supporting Union County’s military personnel throughout their lives as well as in death.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are drawing to a close, but as history tells us there will always be conflict zones around the world, both small and large, that place our active duty personnel in harm’s way. Training and readiness can also involve extraordinary risks and long periods away from home.

To help raise public awareness of the many active duty military personnel and veterans who make their home in Union County, for the first time this summer we are marking one of our annual Summer Arts Festival free outdoor concerts as a special Recognition Day.

For active duty military personnel and their immediate families, we are also providing a number of complimentary passes to our recreation programs that normally require a fee, such as the County swimming pools.

Perhaps most importantly, we are hosting a Veterans’ Job Fair on Wednesday, May 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the National Guard Armory at 500 Rahway Ave in Westfield. Active duty military personnel are also invited to attend, and admission is free of charge.

More than 50 organizations, government agencies, recruiting firms and companies in Union County have come together to make this event a success, including major employers like Wells Fargo, Prudential, Johnson & Johnson, Panasonic, Barnabas Health, NJ Transit, and PSE&G.

Knowledgeable staff will also be on hand to answer questions about veterans’ benefits and services, and a representative from Lyons VA Medical Center will be conducting health screenings.

If you own or manage a business in Union County, you can be part of this effort year-round by reaching out to your local veterans’ organization, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Union County Office of Veterans Affairs to find how you can connect with qualified veterans for your workforce.

I hope to see many of my friends and neighbors at a Memorial Day parade or remembrance ceremony this year, to join in strengthening the spirit of respect and appreciation that lasts all year long.

For more information on the Veterans’ Job Fair please contact Elizabeth L. Sebring of the Union County Department of Human Services at (908) 527-4890 or To contact the Union County Office of Veterans’ Affairs call 908-659-7407.