BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A sense of patriotism was in the air as the Bridgewater and Bound Brook communities gathered on the morning of July 4 in observance of the 124th Independence Day Celebration at Middlebrook Camp Ground, celebrating the 242nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. 

Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen, also a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and current president of the Washington Camp Ground Association, served as the master of ceremonies.  After an invocation led by Rev. Phil Fiadino, veterans from American Legion Giles-Biondi Post 63 of Bound Brook, AMVETS Post 16 of Bridgewater and VFW Post 6588 of Martinsville retired the colors as the flag that had been flown for the past year was lowered to the bugle call of “Retreat,” and members of Boy Scout Troops 41 and 46 presented the colors. 

In recognition of the Continental Army’s encampment at Middlebrook in 1777, the 13-star flag is flown at Middlebrook day and night by a special resolution of the United States Congress.  The New Jersey Harmony Chorus Quartet performed the “Star Spangled Banner” as the flag ceremony concluded.

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The morning continued with a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Somerset County Freeholder Brian Gallagher. 

Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes presented the ninth annual American Citizenship Awards to graduating sixth grade students from Bridgewater-Raritan and Bound Brook schools. The awards are sponsored by the Washington Camp Ground Association. 

Hayes expressed his pride in all of the students who were nominated for the award, and was enthusiastic about the opportunity to congratulate the winners. 

“This is one of the highlights of this event,” he said. “You never know what’s going to inspire the students to be the fantastic citizens that we always need.”

Five Bridgewater-Raritan students received an American Citizenship Award Plaque and $50 cash prize after being nominated by a teacher or principal for demonstrating outstanding citizenship, strong character and civic responsibility through service and respect for others. Awards were given to Eisenhower Intermediate School students Alexandra Baxter, Joe Spirra and Piper Sterner, and Hillside Intermediate School students Laura Jimenez and Daine Kostes.  

Sterner served as a sixth grade student council representative for the Learning and Language Differences classrooms, with the role of helping classmates with special needs engage in student activities, such as Thanksgiving feast and Valentine’s Day carnation sales. 

The experience, Sterner said, was both meaningful and enjoyable.

“The best part was just hanging out with them and getting to know their fun personalities,” she said.   

Spirra also served on student council and the Helping Hands club in sixth grade.  He participated in providing blankets to children through the Malala Foundation and also in organizing a breakfast for local seniors. 

Helping others is a rewarding experience, Spirra said, adding that he especially enjoyed getting to know the seniors.

Also receiving awards were Samantha Hanlon and William Sawyer of Robert Morris School in Bound Brook, and Gabriela Silva and Christopher Vera of Smalley Elementary School in Bound Brook.

Hanlon participated in a 15-mile bike ride, raising $2,000 for breast cancer awareness. She also participates in Girl Scouts and her school’s Leadership Day and The Leader in Me program, highlighting the seven habits of happy kids. 

Gallagher acknowledged all of the student winners.

“It’s wonderful to see these young students taking the time to understand and learn about the independence of our country and what it means to actually have a free society,” he said. “These students are excellent role models.”