NEWTON, NJ—While the ceremony was virtual, the Town of Newton officials honored military men and women who fought and gave their lives for our freedom.

The Town Manager, Thomas S Russo Jr. was the Master of Ceremonies this year. The ceremony was hosted on the Town of Newton’s Facebook page and was live beginning at 11 a.m. on Monday.

The Hontz Family was on hand to provide the music. Russo, Mayor Sandra Diglio, Chaplain Charlie Kampka and Steve Ackerman from Post 5360 as well as those involved in the firing squad were all on site.

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After the Hontz Family provided some musical entertainment, Russo started with the Pledge of Allegiance, then Ackerman welcomed all and the Hontz Family played the National Anthem.

The Invocation was given by Chaplain Kampka and Walter S. Atchison was named the 2020 Grand Marshall.

Atchison was born on September 27, 1916, and will be 104 this year. He said because his last name started with “A” he was drafted into the Army on February 2, 1942.  Atchison did his basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey. He did his advanced training at Fort Brag in North Carolina, from there he was sent to MacDill Field in Tampa, Florida as a member of the 107th Observation Squadron as a Private and after several other transfers, the squadron was sent to England in September on the Queen Elizabeth.

At Membury Airfield in Southern England, he became part of the 107-photo recon squad of the 67th Photo Group. Being a photographer outfit, his job was to fly over France and take pictures of the coastline and other areas in preparation for the future invasion of Europe.

While in England, he was promoted to Sergeant. After spending two and a half years in England, D-Day arrived and his outfit was renamed the 109 tactical recon squadron, ninth Air Force and the outfit was sent to Normandy, France.

A temporary airfield was built where disabled planes could land. In addition to being a chemical warfare instructor, his other duties included being an HB, Guard Duty and being a member of the crash-landing crew. He also served in airfields in Belgium and Germany before the war ended in April 1945.

For his service to our country, he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, The Honorable Service Lapel Button, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, the World War II victory Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation.

 Since he was not able to be present due to the current health crisis, his Grand Marshall sash was to be delivered to him after the ceremony.

Nathaniel Hontz read General Logan’s Order of the Day, which was followed by Russo’s introductions and thanks to Diglio and the council which includes Deputy Mayor Daniel Flynn, and council members Helen LeFois, Matthew Dickson and Jason Schlaffer.

Thomas Hontz read the Gettysburg Address, which was then followed by the recitation of Flanders Field by Susanna Hontz. After she was finished, the Hontz family played God Bless America. Diglio read The Memorial Poem by Jack Tripp and then Ackerman began the Memorial Service.

“Today I call upon you, to reflect on a sacrifice that so many men and women have made,” he said. Ackerman noted that he did not just want to read a speech, he wanted to deliver a message. The message was in the form of a quote by Douglas Alexander Zembiec who paid the ultimate sacrifice on May 11, 2007.

“Be a man of principle. Fight for what you believe in. Keep your word. Live with integrity. Be brave. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Serve your country. Teach. Mentor. Give something back to society. Lead from the front. Conquer your fears. Be a good friend. Be humble and be self-confident. Appreciate your friends and family. Be a leader and not a follower. Be valorous on the field of battle. And take responsibility for your actions. Never forget those that were killed. And never let rest those that killed them.”

Once the service was complete, The Hontz Family played Nearer My God to Thee and Kampka lead everyone in prayer.

Ackerman then finished with the Taps Reading which was followed by the firing squad and Susanna Hontz’s playing of "Taps," bringing the ceremony to a close.

Russo stepped back up to the podium to thank all those for watching and all those who made the ceremony happen, while the Hontz Family continued to play.