MADISON, NJ—A rainy forecast Monday canceled Madison’s annual Memorial Day parade for the second year in a row, but that didn’t stop more than 100 people from attending the borough’s remembrance ceremony, held at the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building.
“Coast Guard weather” moved the ceremony inside again this year, said Jeff Pettit of the Madison Patriotic Celebrations Committee, who is a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain.
Everyone piled into the building’s courtroom, and it was standing room only when the ceremony began at 10 a.m.
Among the sea of residents and veterans in patriotic garb was Mayor Conley, who led the pledge of allegiance, as well as Council President Carmela Vitale, and council members Bob Landrigan and Maureen Byrne.
Madison High School’s own Elizabeth Monkemeier sang the National Anthem. Photos of Madisonians who died in military service lined the building’s lobby.
In his opening remarks, Pettit reminded those in attendance to “remember the real reason for this day of honoring our fallen.”
He quoted a study that he said showed that 28 percent of those surveyed actually knew the true meaning of Memorial Day. Many thought it signified the official start of summer, the beginning of the voting season or the end of the school year, he said.
“Members of your Madison Patriotic Committee, myself included, strongly believe that this day should be not commercialized,” he said. “Instead it should remain a day to reflect on the sacrifices that others have made to keep us all free.”
After the invocation by Rabbi Shalom Lubin, Chabad of Southeast Morris County, Commander of American Legion Post 43, Dave Carey, took a moment to acknowledge those in the audience who lost a loved one in the line of duty, and had a message for the community.
“Long after the battlefield guns have been silenced and the bombs stop exploding, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent,” Carey said. “Spouses will be without their life partners, parents will continue to grief for their heroic sons and daughters who died way too early.”
“We need to be there for them,” he said.
Though the rain prevented him from leading this year’s the parade, Grand Marshall and World War II veteran Peter Siciliano reminded those at the ceremony to “never forget” the sacrifice of those who gave their lives “as we honor their memory this Memorial Day.”
The ceremony continued with the presentation of a red, white and blue floral wreath by Madison Girl Scout troop 973, led by Silver Girl Scout Award recipient Caroline Johnson and three of her fellow scouts.
Mary Beth Valentino, member of American Legion Post 43’s Ladies Auxiliary, read the honor roll of the dead, which included names of those who lost their lives in military service as far back as the Mexican-American war in the mid 1850s.
Winners of the Memorial Day essay, poem and artwork contest were announced by Vic Schumacher of the Madison Patriotic Celebrations Committee. Each winner received a framed award from Karen Jeisi of Madison’s Thursday Morning Club.
Essay winners included Diego Estevez, first place; Devan Patel, second place and Saatvik Sharma, third place.
Winning first place in poetry was Sasha Knoll, followed by Alexandra Reigle in second place and Fiona Beacom in third.
For artwork, Jenny Callandriello took first place, Susan Wilson took second and Emily Crabbe took third.
“Taps” was performed on trumpet by Madison High school senior Matt Haughey, and a closing prayer was offered by Reverend Richard Maxwell of Grace Episcopal Church on Madison Avenue.
Before trudging back to their cars in the drizzling rain, those in attendance concluded the ceremony with an audience-wide singing of “God Bless America.”