MADISON, NJ - Monday’s Memorial Day celebration in Madison was held under blue skies and a bright, morning sun. There was just enough of a breeze to animate the American flags displayed throughout the town, a majestic sight for those honoring the men and women who protect our nation’s freedom, both past and present.

Madison’s James Park is home to 65 trees and a bevy of plaques dedicated to the memory of deceased hometown war veterans. Between the perfect weather and the townspeople’s strong relationship with and appreciation for the U.S. Armed Forces, the stage was set for a perfect day to honor the heroes that make our freedoms possible.

The parade route began at James Park on Madison Avenue and ended at the Hartley Dodge Memorial on Kings Road. The streets were lined with Madisonians of every age, all in support of those who have served our country, as well as the men and women who are currently serving.

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Grand Marshall Robert Dolan, a member of the Madison-Florham Park American Legion Post 43, led the half-hour cavalcade. Dolan’s son, Navy Captain Bob Dolan, lost his life in the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. His motorcade was followed by American Legion Color Guards, Daniel Morgan’s Rifle Company and John Lamb’s Artillery Company, members of the Madison Police and Fire Departments, local Boy and Girl Scout troops, and period military vehicles, just a few of the 36 total entities in the line of march. Each ensemble was given a hero’s reception of cheers and smiles from the crowd.

The loss of life Madison has experienced due to war is substantial. In total, 71 Madisonians were casualties of war: 14 in World War I, 40 in World War II, four in Korea, seven in Vietnam, and six in the 9/11 attacks. Additionally, three of the town’s residents are currently serving our country. Digging back even further, Mayor Mary-Anna Holden noted that four Madison residents died during the Civil War, and one resident died during the Revolutionary War.

In attendance was 91-year-old retired Navy Lieutenant Vince Carey. He served our country from 1946 to 1979, stationed in the Pacific during World War II. A resident of Madison for 80 years, Carey, who now resides in nearby Chatham, has missed just two of Madison’s Memorial Day parades. From the sound of it, he has no plans to add to that total.

“I was very lucky to rarely be in danger during my time served. I try not to miss the men I served with, but being here is a great way for me and everyone else to remember the sacrifices we all made,” said Carey. In his civilian life, Carey has continued to serve as, “a 65-year member of the American Legion and a 45-year member of the local Elks Lodge." 

At the conclusion of the parade, a ceremony was held at the Hartley Dodge Memorial. Speakers included CPT Stuart M. Loy of the U.S. National Guard’s 112th Fire Support Battalion, Reverend Nancy Lynch of the Presbyterian Church of Madison, James Kemp of the Patriotic Celebrations Committee, and Mayor Holden. Rev. Lynch’s address focused on the idea of family, and the elevated importance of Memorial Day when a member of one’s family volunteers or is called to service.

Rev. Lynch’s father was a U.S. Marine, and never over-emphasized the importance of his service. “For most, it’s a three-day weekend. Then my daughter, who is currently at West Point, joined the Army. You gain a different perspective on Memorial Day when you have a family member who is serving and you know will be deployed,” said Rev. Lynch.

The idea of family rang true to much of the crowd, especially Christine Hammitt, who’s son, Drew Hammitt, has served our country for six years. Christine spoke of the always-looming possibility of deployment and the rigorous training her son participates in, along with the appreciation for her son and the selfless acts of others that preserve our liberties.

As the festivities drew to a close, James Kemp, standing in front of the Hartley Dodge Memorial’s Wall of Remembrance and Wall of Honor, succinctly defined our role as a community on such a special day: “We are called to remember, and to honor their sacrifice with the lives we lead and the choices we make.”