SPOTSWOOD, NJ - For the first time since Memorial Day became a federal holiday, the borough did not hold its annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 25 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Memorial Day marks the passing of members of the armed forces that died during service. Initially, the holiday was called Decoration Day and began in 1868, following the conclusion on the American Civil War.
Middletown North High School Band Director and Spotswood resident Beth Lyon could not let Memorial Day pass without recognizing it in some way. Normally Lyon plays her trumpet in two or more parades. Recently she suggested to her neighbor Tracie Smith that she would be available to play "Taps" for Smith's father Travis Fryzowicz on Memorial Day.
Fryzowicz is a longtime borough resident and a Vietnam veteran. He and his wife Grace donated the Battlefield Cross Memorial in 2018 that stands at Spotswood's War Memorial on Summerhill Road. Fryzowicz was happy to hear of Lyon's offer and had initially planned a small gathering at the flag pole at his home on Memorial Day.
"It's too important," Lyon said of letting Memorial Day 2020 pass without some sort of remembrance ceremony.
Lyon felt that the playing of "Taps" was something small she could offer the community to help honor the members of the armed forces who have given their lives while serving their country.
"Taps" is played at all United States military funerals, memorials and to signify "lights out" for soldiers in the evening. Its origins also date back to the Civil War. The tune was first used at a military funeral in 1862 not long after it was created by General Daniel Butterfield. Butterfield's bugle call replaced the three drum taps previously used as a lights out call which is how the tune began to be referred to by soldiers as "Taps."
It didn't take long for word of Fryzowicz's small Memorial Day ceremony at his home to spread amongst the VFW community in Spotswood. The ceremony was moved to Spotswood VFW Post 4589 on Daniel Road. Since New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently raised the number of people allowed at an outdoor gathering from 10 to 25, members of the borough's VFW post and others in the community were able to attend. Many participants wore gloves and/or masks. Those gathering to view the Memorial Day remembrance ceremony followed the social distancing guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NJ Governor's Office.
The ceremony included the VFW's Color Guard Thomas Flakovic, Dave Downs, Jennifer Norton, Neil Doscher, Mike Doscher, Steve Huston and Christopher Anderson as well as VFW Post 4589 Commander Bill Young, VFW Auxiliary President Mary Puschel and Chaplin Dave Groves. Young, Puschel and Groves each spoke briefly before two wreaths were laid at the VFW's memorial. Lyon played "Taps" at the conclusion of the ceremony.
The following Spotswood residents lost their lives in the line of duty and will be remembered along with countless other servicemen and women on Memorial Day:
- Spc. Michael Luis Gonzalez - August 28, 2008
- Cpl. Dennis Crane - Marine Corps - June 15, 1968
- Pfc. Gary Richard Buttenbaum - Marine Corps - May 9, 1967
- Pfc. Otto (Skip) William Baumann, Jr. - Army - December 28, 1966
- Pfc. James Brooks Heffron - Marine Corps - August 31, 1966
- Fireman First Class, Willard O. Clark - Navy - May 28, 1945
- Seaman Second Class Reese David Eaton - Navy - October 25, 1942
- Sgt. Walter Burgess - Army - WW2
- Pvt. Rosairo DeStefano - Army - WW2
- Edward Koch, Jr. - WW2