MILLBURN, NJ - It seems almost unthinkable, but last year, Millburn had no Memorial Day parade. This year, town residents and government officials made sure that would not be the case.
Township residents, public officials and local veterans came together on a committee in order to hold a parade. Starting at Millburn High School and heading down Millburn Avenue to Taylor Park, the parade was led by Grand Marshall Jake Dalton.
Dalton, 93, is a life-long Millburn Township resident, World War II Veteran and member of the Guy R. Bosworth American Legion Post 140.
For the first time, Dalton and the other marchers were joined by current veterans. Jonathan Sym, a Short Hills resident and Commander in the US Navy, was able to pull several sailors serving on the USNS Burlington, stationed out of Norfolk, VA, from Fleet Week activities in nearby New York City to march in the parade.
Out of the 14 current sailors who marched, Sym was joined by another local resident. Third Officer Kevin Ruane was born and raised in Millburn and now serves with the Merchant Marines. For Ruane, being back in his home town for Memorial Day as a serviceman is something special.
"It's a great experience," Ruane said. It's awesome to have everybody, especially with those who served, to be able to come out and really contribute back to the small town of Millburn...There's so many veterans in this town that it's great to really just have a day set aside just to truly remember that we are what they fight for."
As the parade headed down Millburn Avenue, Dalton, Ruane and the members of Legion Post 140 were joined by multiple civic groups and organizations in town.
Millburn Township officials, including Mayor Diane Eglow and Deputy Mayor Jackie Lieberberg, were accompanied by Millburn's Congressman in the House of Representatives, Tom Malinowski.
Behind them marched many groups, including the town's Democratic Committee, The Millburn Police and Fire Departments, the Millburn-Short Hills First Aid Squad, Millburn-Short Hills Youth Baseball, Softball and Lacrosse, Boy Scout Troops 19, 17 and 15, The Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society, The Millburn-Short Hills Desi Club, Girl Scout Service Unit 31, The Millburn DPW. Cub Scout Pack 17, The Millburn High School Robotics Team and the town's Fourth of July Committee.
For Maggee Miggins, a Millburn resident and volunteer member of the Memorial Day Committee, seeing the honor bestowed upon fallen service members by the town's residents is a good thing, one that she truly appreciates.
"There are those who serve so that we can have this parade," Miggins said. "There are those who serve so that you and I can speak...There are those who serve that protect our freedoms, and it comes sometimes, at a great price.
"And so we wish to honor those that have served, those who continue to serve, but especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Because every single one of them has allowed me to be here today and honor them."
The parade finished up at Taylor Park with a small ceremony in the mid-morning. Several dignitaries, including Malinowski and Mayor Eglow, spoke. One of the other speakers at the event was Burt Brown. Brown, the commander of Legion Post 140 used his speech to implore town residents to never forget the reason behind the holiday.
As Brown relayed the story of Major Brent Taylor, killed in the line of duty shortly after putting out a call for unity in America, he said that despite our differences of opinion and politics, Memorial Day is an opportunity to come together in recognition of the servicemen and women who fight for the freedom that town residents experience every day.
"From the American Revolution to our current operations against terrorism, one million American men and women have made the supreme sacrifice while serving in wars and conflicts," Brown said. "We honor all of them - not just those with the highest medals or the heroes who fought in the most famous battles."
Brown continued with his speech, extolling the virtues of those who volunteer to serve in the armed forces.
"That is why we are gathered here on Memorial Day…to honor the memory of our fallen warriors who have given everything for their country," he said. "We are also reminded on this day that in each generation, brave men and women will always step forward to take the oath of allegiance as members of America’s armed forces willing to fight, and if necessary, die for the sake of freedom.
"As Americans, we should all remember that freedom isn’t free. It’s only possible because our fallen heroes have paid its high price. A price paid which enables us to have ceremonies and observances like this in communities across our great country."
After the ceremony concluded, light refreshment, including hot dogs and donuts, were served to those in attendance.