BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - A crowd gathered on Monday on a beautiful morning for the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Berkeley Heights. Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan were in attendance.
"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.
Romankow asked the family of Anthony Steitz to come forward to receive a plaque in his honor. Anthony was a cadet in the nationally recognized Union High School JROTC program. As a junior, Anthony joined the New Jersey National Guard. He tragically died, at the age of 17, this past April in an automobile accident on Route 78.
"He knew where his future was going to be -- he was going to be in the Armed Services protecting our country. -- He was a good student, he was a good son, he was a good brother and he was a good man," said Romankow. "He offered his service to our community. -- We are proud that we were at least a small piece of his life before it tragically ended this past April in an automobile accident. We wanted the Steitz family to come here to show his family how much we really cared for Anthony."
Anthony was the son of Nicole Bollaro and Union firefighter Gary Steitz and came from a long line of firefighters.
Ret. Col. John Friedlander made the special presentation to the Steitz family. "Anthony was a fine young American and an exemplary JROTC -- he was loyal, he was trustworthy, honest and always willing to help in anyway he could whenever asked. He will be missed by all who came to know him -- the superb individual he was," said Col. Friedlander.
The Union High School ROTC posted the colors and Father Matthew Dooley of Little Flower Church opened the ceremony with an Invocation and Rev. George Betz of Westminster Presbyterian Church provided the closing prayer.
In attendance were members of the Berkeley Heights VFW Post 6259, members of the Veterans Memorial Restoration Committee, Mayor Angie Devanney, Councilmen Manny Couto, Alvaro Medeiros and Stephen Yellin, along with members of the Police, Fire, Rescue Squad, and DPW.
Everyone was invited to the VFW Post for a pancake breakfast prepared by the Berkeley YMCA (Photo credits Natalie Chin). 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.
At the 11th hour ceremony, Post Commander Tom Lombadi also recognized Anthony Steitz and all the members of the Union High School Color Guard. Lombardi reminded the crowd that gathered, when somebody goes to war, the whole family actually goes to war. He said it's important that the support extends to the family. He thanked everyone for being there.
In closing, Lombardi said, "Let's not forget the people that never came home -- that is what Memorial Day is about."
He wished the young cadets the best. -- "Be careful with what you do in life -- it's going to pay off if you go into the service. Thank you for coming," he said.
VFW Post 6259 invites the community to an Italian Night Dinner for $15 per person on Friday, Nov. 15 at the Post located at 15 Locust Ave. in Berkeley Heights. Come for the community camaraderie and support the Post. Proceeds from the dinners allow the Post to continue their work at Lyons VA Hospital. "Support us the best you can throughout the year by buying poppies or coming to the dinners -- and coming to the events like this," said Lombardi.