HAWTHORNE, NJ - At noon, on Monday, the annual Memorial Day Service was held in front of the Municipal Building for a small gathering of locals and veterans, with chairs spread out over a large area to maintain social distance.  Those who attended wore masks, including the Hawthorne Police.

The service began with a welcome from the mayor, followed by an invocation from Pastor Howard Van Dyk of the Hawthorne Gospel Church.  John Bertollo, past councilman for Hawthorne's 2nd Ward, lead the service in the pledge of allegiance.

Mayor Goldberg said the service was "to honor those who paid the ultimate price."

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Joe Metzler served as the Grand Marshal, although there was no parade. 

"We gather today, socially distanced, to honor those who went to war to defend us and our way of life.  They made the ultimate sacrifice and we have an obligation never to forget them, or the price that they and their families paid."

Mayor Goldberg said he had read the Queens Weekly Gazette in the course of composing his speech.  "Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year is unlike any previous year in most of our lifetimes.  There will be no parades, no sales or street fairs, and barbecues, weekend trips, and beach going will not be the same as previous Memorial Day weekends.  We are in uncharted waters.  However, this holiday has never been about us.  While we hope to return to our normal lives, activities, and holidays as soon as possible, in the meantime we can still fly our flag, call and thank veterans and servicemember we know for their service, and of course say a prayer and devote at least a few moments to reflect upon and remember the thousands who have given their lives for our benefit.  We can also send cards to veterans, some of whom may be recuperating in hospitals, to let them know that they're appreciated and not forgotten, and contribute something towards their care or to brighten their day.  We can also offer a prayer for those currently in the service, that they may be safe, well, and home soon.  Flags are being placed in cemeteries by volunteers maintaining social distance.  Some places are holding ceremonies with fewer participants and no in-person audience.  Instead, they are being broadcast or streamed.  Also, people are decorating their homes in red, white, and blue, raising flags, and bringing out photos of loved ones who have sacrificed in our armed forces.  We will miss the ceremonies and parades of previous years.  The ability to lay flowers at graves in person, to honor the brave ones who lost or risked their lives, or lost precious times with their loved ones at home, and the young soldier who exchanged the revelry of youth for the horrors of war.  Another facet associated with Memorial Day still holds true.  Summer is arriving and we hope that we will see a return to some degree of normalcy sometime during the most of people's favorite season.  We wish everyone a memorable, meaningful, Memorial Day."

Michael Sebetich next spoke on behalf of the veterans.  He read from past Secretary of Defense General James Mattis' speech in which he said veterans had given the country "a blank check, payable with their lives" and that "this nation has no ordained right to exist.  America's freedoms do not stand unassailed.  Dictators and authoritarians look with fear upon our freedom, our experiment, our republican model, a model which has long served as an inspiration for oppressed people everywhere.  We are most indebted to our veterans who fell and their families for this experiment, they can never be fully repaid, though we begin to do so by respecting one another in this land of boundless possibilities because those who face down danger and pay the price on our behalf deserve no less."

Mayor Goldberg read the names of veterans who had since passed on from last Memorial Day from the local veteran organizations.  He rang a bell following each person's name.

Bertollo announced that the ceremonial wreaths, which in past years had been laid up at Hawthorne's War Memorials, had been done so prior to better protect everyone with social distancing.  The program listed wreaths from VFW Post 1593, VFW Auxiliary Post 1593, The American Legion Post 199, The Riverside Veterans, The Knights of Columbus, The Holy Name Society, San Giuseppe Santa Croce Camerina Society, Hawthorne Exempt Fire Department, Hawthorne Fire Department, and the William B. Mawhinney Memorial Ambulance Corps.

A salute was rendered while Mike DeVecchio played "Taps".

Pastor Van Dyk closed the ceremony, which was being recorded for residents to watch at home, with a benediction.

Special thanks for the service were given to Mayor Richard Goldberg, Commander Doug Tenis of American Legion Post #199, Commander John Touw of VFW #1593, President Tara Temprano of VFW Auxiliary Post #1593, Pastor Howard Van Dyk, John Bertollo, Michael DelVecchio, the Hawthorne Police Department, and Hawthorne Department of Public Works.

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