CRANFORD, NJ – 86, that is the number of Cranford residents who gave their lives serving in the United States Armed Forces protecting our freedom.
The rain may have canceled the parade, but the Township of Cranford honored the memory of those 86 at a solemn ceremony held at the Cranford Community Center. Flags representing the 86 residents were held by members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and members of the community. Barbara Bilger, Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post #335 and Master of Ceremonies commented, “This is the first year all 86 residents are represented with a flag.”
With hundreds in attendance, including the Cranford Township Committee, members of the Cranford Police and Fire Departments, the Cranford First Aid Squad, members of the VFW Post #335, Crane's Ford Chapter Daughter's of the American Revolution, Cranford Girls Scouts and Boys Scouts, students and residents, the ceremony was filled with reverence, history and homage.
Lead Pastor Tom Rice of the Cranford Alliance Church began the service with an Invocation, “Gracious and Almighty God we thank-you for the men and women who have gone before and showed the full measure of the devotion to our nation, family and friends.”
In his welcome, Mayor Andis Kalnins encouraged the members of the community to visit Memorial Park when the sun comes out, those memorials represent the reason for the day. “The purpose of the day is to remember the dedication of those who have given all to duty, honor and country.”
The youth of Cranford were involved throughout the ceremony; "America the Beautiful was played by the Cranford High School band; The “Pledge of Allegiance” was led by Timothy Joyce, Eagle Scout Troop 75; the Cranford High School Madrigal Ensemble with the singing of our “National Anthem” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”; OAS student Desiree Santos read Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”; members of the Girl Scouts and Boys Scouts participated in the placing of the wreaths ceremony; Daniela Calixto and Jake Batista presented “Taps” and Girls Scout Cadette Troop 40071 presented the VFW with a flag that was flow by the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
The reading of the Roll Call of Cranford’s War Dead commanded silence and reverence from the audience. World War I – the 15 names were read by Past Post Commander VFW Post #335 James D’Arcy; World War II – the 57 names were read by Post Commander VFW #335 Jay Boxwell; The Korean Conflict – 2 names and the Vietnam Conflict – 12 names were read by Chaplain VFW Post #335 Edward Schmidt.
Grand Marshall Retired Army Master Sergeant John Abdul said, “In Cranford I see people who want to remember and don’t want to forget the sacrifices made.” Abdul also encouraged the audience to visit Memorial Park and noted the “Lest We Forget” Memorial, he referred to the wars no one “thinks about,” such as the Mexican-American War, the conflict in the Philippines and operations Grenada and Panama.
“There are operations we are not even aware of that happen on a regular basis, to protect us so we can have a civil society and a society of law,” Abdul said. “On this day, I want you to especially to remember the POWs, the MIAs and the operations that go on that we do not know about.”
In closing, Senior Pastor Chris Kile, First Presbyterian Church delivered the Benediction and the Cranford High School band played “The Thunderer.”
The members of the Cranford Memorial Day Committee are: Barbara Bilger, Jay Boxwell, Mark Dinglestedt, Jerry Dobbins, Elizabeth Mathieu, Heinz Ricken, Chris Sands, Don Sweeney, Commissioner Thomas Hannen and Stephen Robertazzi.