MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - Hundreds of Borough citizens and area residents gathered on Saturday to pay tribute to local Veterans as well as active servicemen and women at the dedication of the newly constructed Mountainside Veterans Memorial Plaza on Constitution Avenue.

Under clear blue skies, with bagpipes and drums playing in the background, the ceremony began with a presentation of colors by the Marine Corps Color Guard. Citing what “began with a dream, and lots of discussion,” Colonel Timothy McLaughlin, Commander of VFW Post 10136 welcomed hundreds of people, including Veterans, families and friends to the historic day in the Borough. 

Colonel McLaughlin, an Iraq War Vet and currently active in the NJ Army National Guard, shared the vision members of his Post had for a new and enlarged plaza which would ensure safety and allow for easier access for aging Veterans. In order to achieve such a feat, the former plaza had to be relocated onto level ground. The idea was to construct a dignified place to reflect upon the community’s appreciation for all its Veterans, as well as to serve as a beautiful assembly area for future Veterans’ ceremonies.

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Colonel McLaughlin gave credit for the success of making that dream a reality to the members of his Post, noting the undertaking was a 100 percent grass roots effort, led by project manager Bill Tomko, a WWII Navy Veteran, and retired mason by trade.  Since breaking ground in June of this year, Mr. Tomko could be found at the job site on any day of the week, ensuring the work was running smoothly and on schedule. 

Colonel McLaughlin applauded the outpouring of funding received by the community to make this day possible, noting the ongoing fundraising by the purchase of inscribed brick pavers. He noted that personalized brick pavers can be ordered at any time by logging onto Donations of any amount for perpetual care of the plaza would be greatly appreciated by the Veterans. Checks can be mailed to Mountainside VFW Post 10136, PO Box 1163, Mountainside, NJ 07092, or donate online at the “Go Fund Me” account entitled "Mountainside Veterans Memorial Park.”

Plaques were presented to donors who provided goods and services and to those who were instrumental in moving the project forward. Special thanks were extended to:The Publick House, Rivenbend Media, Union Paving, The Watts Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation, The Mountainside Fire Department, George Vetter, Harol Landscaping, Bartell’s Farm and Garden Supply, Gary Cantagalo, Walter Heckel, Patrick Monaghan Inc. General Contractors, M&N Boychuck Stone, Dumac Inc. Masonry, Houston Lumber & Supply Co., PS&S Architecture, Home Depot of Watchung, and Dellisanti Electrical Contracting. 

Local dignitaries, including Mayor Paul Mirabelli, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, Congressman Leonard Lance, as well Reverend Richard Carrington from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish  also spoke to the crowd, giving heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the loyalty of the men and women in uniform and extended prayers for those currently in harm’s way. Congressman Lance provided a history lesson for the audience, which included many young people, of how of Armistice Day evolved  into Veteran's Day.

After the ceremony, boy scouts from Scoutmaster (and Army Veteran) Jeff Healy’s Pack 177 served a traditional autumn snack of apple cider and donuts to those who attended the dedication of what Bramnick referred to as "a magnificent place."

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” Thomas Paine