BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The pomp and circumstance of the annual Memorial Day parade was canceled, but VFW Post 6259 members know the true meaning behind Memorial Day as they held their private ceremony to pay homage to the men and women who have died serving our country, to create or preserve our way of life. Monday's ceremony held at Veterans Memorial Park was private to adhere to the 25 person COVID-19 gathering restriction.
VFW Post 6259 Commander Al Campora spoke of the origin of Memorial Day. "Memorial Day was not always called Memorial Day," he said. The day was originally known as Decoration Day. In 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared that Decoration Day be observed on May 30. "Civil War soldiers’ graves were to be decorated with flowers on this day." Memorial Day originally consisted of a small procession carrying the colors of the nation.
"Just after the first World War, we began to realize that members of the U. S. military died -- to honor all Americans that died in battle." The holiday wouldn’t legally become Memorial Day until 1967, said Campora. Due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which took effect in 1971, Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May to ensure long weekends.
In December 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Recognition Act, requiring Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to remember and honor the fallen. "Remember to take that one minute of pause to be grateful and honor those who have passed," said Campora.
Father Matthew Dooley of The Church of Little Flower provided the benediction. "Take the time today to be grateful. Grateful for those men and women who have given their lives and service to others that we may know the freedoms we live with, and share in each and every day," said Father Dooley.
In conclusion, Campora recognized this year's Grand Marshal, Korean War Veteran Joe Federico. He was a longtime member of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad and is a member of the Senior Citizens.
Memorial Day looked a lot different today -- missing the scouts, the sports teams, the young children waving their American flags, the Highlander Marching Band, the bagpipes and trumpets, singers, the antique cars, first responders and Berkeley Heights' governing body.
But, the message was clear -- "remember to take that one minute of pause to be grateful and honor those who have passed."
Click below to view the ceremony in its entirety.
The Ceremony Order:
- Flag Ceremony
- Pledge of Allegiance
- The Star-Spangled Banner
- Assembly of the Battle Field Cross Memorial
- Lost during this past year: Andrew Haspel, Michael Allocco, Donald Pannacciulli
- Berkeley Heights Residents Lost in World War 2: Louis Burgmiller, Anthony V. DeBisco Jr., James DelDuca, Vincent Herbst, Henry Pickell, Henry Seidentop, Ralph Swerdloff, Cleaston Patterson.
- Playing of Taps
- Placement of the Memorial Wreath
- Commander Al Campora Remarks
- Bendediction by Father Matt Dooley of Church of the Little Flower
Special thanks to Deans Greens Garden, Nursery, and Flower Center; Smith Chiropractic Foundation and the Veterans Memorial Park Restoration Committee.