CRANFORD, NJ – Veterans, scouts, students and service dogs attended Cranford’s Memorial Day celebration Monday morning, held in the gymnasium of the Cranford Community Center due to rain.
Cranford Boy and Girl Scouts held 86 flags, each one listed with the name of a Cranford veteran who died in service. As the names were read, the flag bearing said name was lowered in their honor.
James D’Arcy, past post commander for VFW Post 335, read the names of the 15 soldiers who died in WWI. Jay Boxwell, post commander for VFW Post 335, read the names of the 57 soldiers who died in WWII. Edward Schmidt, chaplain for VFW Post 335, read the names of the two soldiers who died in the Korean Conflict and the 12 soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.
“Over the years, Cranford has given its greatest sons to the cause of freedom,” Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr. said in his welcoming address. “We are grateful for your presence here today to honor them. May their sacrifice never be forgotten.”
Along with Hannen, other members of the Cranford community lent their services to the ceremony. Barbara Bilger of Auxilary VFW Post 335 presided as Master of Ceremonies. An invocation was given by Rev. Andrew Kruger of the Trinity Episcopal Church.
Hannah Marsh of Hillside Avenue School read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The Cranford High School Madrigal Ensemble performed the “Star Spangled Banner” and “The Lord Bless and Keep You.” The Cranford High School Marching Band could not play in the ceremony due to the size constraints of the gymnasium, but band director Daniel Chernosky played “Taps.”
Following the placing of the wreaths, Grand Marshal Peter Klein of the United States Army spoke of his experience in WWII. Klein fought in Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge.
“As a grand marshal, we always look for someone who was a leader within their service organization or union who has made their mark on history,” Boxwell said in his introduction for Klein. “The great marshal today laid the foundation for many combat medics and hospital foremen that followed. He’s a member of our community, a member of the greatest generation, and a Cranford hero.”
Following Klein’s speech, a benediction was given by Rev. Cameron Overbey of the Cranford United Methodist Church and Don Sweeney, a member of the Memorial Day Committee, explained the history behind each flag. His goal is to prepare a book filled with a photo and history of each Cranford soldier who lost their life in the military.
“Right now, we have 59 pictures and stories out the 86,” Sweeney said. “Bob Greco spoke at the Memorial services that I attended, and he would say ‘To you they’re just names, to me they’re faces.’ It would be nice if we in Cranford knew the names and knew the faces of the Cranford 86.”