MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ -  Although the 5th Annual Mountainside Memorial Day parade was called off due to forecasts of severe weather and will not be rescheduled, veterans and a large crowd of well-wishers gathered at Our Lady of Lourdes Pollen Hall on Monday to honor the men and women that have died serving their country. The town barbecue followed with hot dogs, hamburgers, salad and watermelon. 

Mayor Paul Mirabelli thanked the crowd for coming out to "honor the veterans that have given their lives for our freedom and those that have served and are here today."  He was proud to introduce this year's Grand Marshal William "Bill" Madden for his years of contributing to the community.

Madden, a World War II veteran, was a 30 year member of the Mountainside VFW Post 10136 and served as Commander Chief. He has also helped to organize all five of the Memorial Day Parades. 

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Councilman Glenn Mortimer presented Madden with a flag that Congressman Leonard Lance had flown over the Capital. He also presented Madden with a resolution from Senator Tom Kean, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz to commemorate this day and Madden's service to this nation.

Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts lined the stage and members of the Rescue Squad, Police, Fire Department, Rotary Club, P.A.L and citizens came out and filled Pollen Hall. Mayor Mirabelli was happy to see such a large turnout which he said is a true testament of how Mountainside honors its veterans. 

The ceremony opened to a performance by members of The Rampant Lion Pipe Band out of Basking Ridge. The singing of the national anthem was performed by Deerfield 8th grade student Josh  Bezerra. Father Richard Carrington of Our Lady of Lourdes RCC provided the invocation.

Tim McLaughlin, VFW Commander, greeted the crowd with a Memorial Day message from the National VFW Headquarters. "We honor their service, mourn their loss and remember their families they have left behind," said McLaughlin.

The message stressed the importance of preserving the legacy of the fallen soldiers. "Your being here today is a testament to the highest ideals of Memorial Day," said McLaughlin. "We are honor bound to uphold our sacred duty to preserve their legacy. Never let America forget the sacrifice of so many," he said. 

The message also stressed the importance of passing our knowledge along to the next generation so they may do the same. "We must ensure that the youth of tomorrow understands the true cost of freedom. There is no greater way to honor the memory of those that have secured it. We must remain dedicated to caring for those that have returned from their wars. American veterans deserve proper medical care --- they deserve opportunity for employment, education and a home in which to live," said McLaughlin. 

This poignant message was followed by the reading of an essay of a local student, "My Vision of America."  The essay asks Americans to view America through the eyes of an immigrant. She proceeded to tell the story of her grandfather's journey as a German during World War II, who was forced to join the German army. He was on the front line in Normandy Beach where he was "happily and thankfully" captured by American soldiers. -- "He viewed America as a place where he could have a chance for a new life and new freedom."  -- The essay continued to tell the story of her immigrant grandparents never taking anything for granted. Every year, on Memorial Day, they would go to their local cemetery to honor the American soldiers who died for their freedom. -- "Without those American soldiers, they wouldn't be living the lives they had, let alone be Americans."

"If we all took a moment to reflect on how lucky we really are, America would be a different place. -- My vision for America is not the typical vision for America. It is not just to make America more successful and stronger. My vision is that and more and would entail changing [the] American perspective of America. It would have Americans helping people who want to legally immigrate to America. It would help the immigrants, but also, internally help America by having Americans appreciate the freedom they have." 

The Mountainside Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) initiated a project which will create the “Mountainside Veterans Memorial Park at Constitution Plaza.”  The newly designed Veterans Memorial Park will provide for an enlarged assembly area for veteran’s ceremonies, a dignified park to reflect upon Mountainside’s appreciation for our community veterans as well as enhance the focal point of the area in conjunction with the Hetfield and Levi Cory houses. Visit the Borough website to learn more about the "Buy a Brick" fundraising program to support the project.