LODI, NJ -- The Borough of Lodi was officially named a Purple Heart Community with the proclamation "to remember and recognize veterans who are recipients of the Purple Heart Medal" at its Borough Council meeting on Tuesday night. The borough is the first in Bergen County to receive this designation.
The council chamber was packed with members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Lodi American Legion Post 136, Lodi Memorial VFW Post 5082, and members of the community.
Mayor Emil Carafa, Jr., explained how the evening came about.
"Great things happen when people get together and have conversations about different things that are happening," said the Mayor. "This came together from people who have a very positive outlook. It was through these efforts that I want to thank the people that were involved.
"The Lodi Chamber of Commerce, James (Tassillo) and Tom (Rachelski), I'd really like to thank them for a discussion with Vincent Martin (Councilman), and Diane Sedlmeir from Felician University. I really think this is a great honor to bestow on all of the great men and women who served in our armed forces."
Carafa noted that his family and his wife's family both served in several branches of the military.
He then called up Joseph Belardo, Sr., New Jersey State Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart. He was assisted by Neil Van Ess and Barry Jensen, both past State and National Commanders. Belardo provided an in-depth history of the oldest military medal which was created by General George Washington in 1782 and originally called the Badge of Military Merit. General Douglas MacArthur updated the award into the medal that is given today, and was first issued to World War I veterans. Belardo explained the Purple Heart is awarded to all branches of service to those who are either killed in action or wounded in action. Since World War I, there have been 1,789,367 Purple Heart medals issued, he said, "and that number is still growing."
"It's a universal bond for brother in arms," he explained. "Regardless of the war they fought, how old they are, from present day to World War I."
He noted that Lodi had met and exceeded the criteria for a Purple Heart community, which includes Lodi acknowledging Purple Heart recipeints and all veterans, and explifies the true meaning of patriotism by supporting the Purple Heart recipients and all veterans. He awarded the borough a flag to fly over town hall, Purple Heart parking signs, and an official proclamation.
"When the idea of Lodi becoming a Purple Heart Community was pitched to me over an introduction to Diane Sedlmeir at Felician University’s Breakfast with Santa in December, I felt that this would be a great opportunity to bring the community together and support our Veteran residents," said James Tassillo, Lodi Chamber of Commerce vice president. "With the help of Vincent Martin speaking to the rest of the council we were able to pass a resolution and recognize the residents of our Borough who helped keep our country safe and free by placing their lives first in the line of duty. It truly was an honor to be a part of this momentous occasion I want to thank Neil Van Ess for helping us receive this recognition tonight."
"The most rewarding part of being a Chamber of Commerce member is not only promoting local businesses but also being an advocate for the entire community," said Tom Rachelski, president of the Lodi Chamber. He was a Corporal in the New Jersey Army National Guard, and served in Kuwait in 2003-2004.
Lodi joins five other towns in New Jersey as Purple Heart Communities, Belvidere, Hillsborough, Montgomery Township, North Hanover, and Phillipburg, according to the Military of the Purple Heart website.