NEWTON, NJ – Wreaths Across America National Remembrance ceremony to honor veterans at Christmas has grown in the three years since it began to be observed in Newton. On Saturday approximately 40 people, including Congressman Josh Gottheimer attended the event at the Old Newton Burial Ground under fittingly gray, drizzly skies.
“We are honoring the 2.2 million who have served to preserve our freedom,” Cemetery Co-Chair Wendy Wyman said in her remarks to the folks gathered to help lay wreaths of the graves of veterans. “We shall remember those who have fought to keep us free. We shall not forget.”
The original initiative at Arlington Cemetery began quietly on a small scale and has grown to a national observation with wreaths laid by volunteers at more than 1600 locations in all 50 states. In Newton, fewer than 10 people attended the first ceremony according to Wyman.
Gottheimer said he was “overwhelmed to be surrounded by so many who have given so much.” He agreed the weather was fitting and reminiscent of the harsh weather endured by the troops in the Revolutionary War.
The congressman said it is “important to teach the next generation.” He spoke of Revolutionary War Pvt. Matthew Davis who returned from the war but was somehow buried without a grave marker when he died in 1780. The Newton Historical Society contacted him for assistance and 239 years later Davis has the dignity of a marker.
He referenced the Civil War soldiers who “fought for a way of life so I can stand here as a democratically elected representative.”
“It is our duty to preserve the stories, fight for veterans and make sure their stories are not forgotten,” Gottheimer said.
Wayne McCabe, President of the Sussex County Historical Society thanked the volunteers for coming out “in challenging wreath conditions to continue to tell the stories of those buried here.”
This year several organizations participated including:
- Sussex County Historical Society,
- American Legion Post 86,
- Chinkchewunska Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution,
- Joseph Bessette Chapter National Daughters of the Union,
- Colonel John ROsenkrans Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution,
- RW Harmony Lodge Number 8
- Girl Scout Cadette Troop 5688
- The Hontz Family
Wendy Wyman, Cemetery Co-Chair and Trustee welcomed the attendees as the American Legion Post 86 Color Guard presented the colors. The Hontz family provided musical accompaniment for the afternoon.
Gerald DeGroat of the SAR lead the Pledge of Allegiance and Mia Sanchez sang the National Anthem. The young singer said she has sung at other events, including “stadiums, hockey games and around.” She is in the chorus at the Franklin Boro School where she attends.
“No commitment is more sacred than those who commit to serve,” Gottheimer said. “Patriotism must come first about partisan fights.”
After the ceremony and after the wreaths had been laid, Gottheimer spoke with constituents Frank Hennion and Hixon Spangenbers. Hennion asked about the “important vote coming up this week.”
Gottheimer said it has been taking a lot of energy, especially "when you know how the story ends" and that he was trying to “stay focused on doing the things that are important for people around here,” like “getting taxes down,” to keep people from “fleeing the state.”
Veterans and Patriots of the Old Newton Burial Ground
American Revolution: Thomas Anderson, John Couse, Matthew Davis, John Drake, Samuel Harden, Jacob Hendershot, John Holmes, Henry Johnson, Richard Lloyd, Charles Pemberton, Theodorus Polhemus and Letitia Anderson of the Ladies of Trenton
Pennsylvania Insurrection of 1794: John Potter
Quasi-War with France: William Thornton Anderson
War with Tripoli: Thomas Oakley Anderson
War of 1812: John Cummins Cox, Grant Itch, James Inglis, John Johnson, John Conover Lane, Benjamin McCarter, Vancleve Moore, Thomas Coxe Ryerson
American Civil War: Evi Dayton Anderson, Thomas Anderson, Benjamin Booth, Samuel Brooks, Newman Chambers, Lorenzo Cimmins, Isaac J. Jurling, Gersham W. Gillam, George Van Tile Griggs, Robert Armstrong Haggerty, George T Hendershop, John S. Hendershot, Peter M. Hendershot, James Polk Knox, John Polk Knox, Levi DeWitt Miller, William A. Moshier, William Flack Robbins, Henry J. Rudd, Henry Ogden Ryerson, Ira Beach Stewart, Hampton S. Wilson