WOODLAND PARK, NJ - The Woodland Park American Legion, the Mayor and Council, and the Board of Education dedicated the Memorial School Killed in Action Monument on June 29.
The monument, located on the renovated front lawn of Memorial Middle School, replaced 14 individual plaques dedicated on the grounds to soldiers who were killed in action.
It bears the name of each local veteran who was killed in action since World War I and reminds of the meaning of which Memorial School was named.
“For those of us that grew up in West Paterson and attended this school, (Principal) Al Baumann was the epitome of what it meant to be a West Patersonian,” said Mayor Keith Kazmark. “He made us sing. He taught us history. He instilled in every student that walked these halls about what it meant to be an American.”
The name for Memorial School, opened in 1958, was chosen by Baumann, who served as principal at the school as well as mayor for 29 years, to honor those who served in the armed forces.
“These men, some voluntary, some not, were called to duty,” Kazmark said. “And we as residents of this community have a responsibility to them, and to every student that walks these hallways, to remember why this building is named Memorial School.”
Current Memorial School Principal Charles Silverstein, the son of a World War II veteran, works to continue the ideals of Principal Baumann, Kazmark noted, and the memorial will be used to continue to educate the students of Woodland Park.
Silverstein said that each year on the eighth grade trip to Washington, DC he takes the students to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall and shows them the names of those killed in action from their town.
Erik Luker, commander of the American Legion Post #238, spoke of the enormity of detail and responsibility that went into the memorial.
“It’s a tangible reminder,” he said, “but it also represents a new generation. A generation that will learn the history and carry it forward.”
He introduced a local boy named Braxton Miller, who is going into first grade. Miller’s grandfather Johnny served in the Vietnam War. At his recent birthday party, Miller asked for donations to the American Legion Post #238 in lieu of gifts. He attended the dedication and wore fatigues that his grandfather had made for him.
In addition, Miller presented two posters detailing the soldiers memorialized to school district officials.
“The cost of freedom is high, so get your money’s worth,” said Luker, pointing to the monument. “And get their money’s worth too.”
Art Tozzi, a former borough resident and classmate of the late Vietnam veterans honored on the memorial, traveled to the event from New Hampshire. Tozzi was a member of the first class at Memorial School in 1958.
The borough, he contended to officials earlier this month, had never honored former resident Nicholas Cerrato, who served in the US Army and was killed in Vietnam. After research and verification, Cerrato was added to the memorial and a tree will be planted in his name as well.
The 15 fallen soldiers, from World War I, World War II and Vietnam, who are honored on the monument, are:
Joseph Zendzian (US Army, World War I)
William Kay (World War I)
Sgt. Walter (Wadeslaw) Borkowski (US Army, World War II)
PVT Nicholas Fillipone (US Army, World War II)
PFC Wail (“Bill”) Hromiak (USMC, World War II)
T/3 Michael Lorzorvich (US Army, World War II)
T/3/4 Frank E. Pascale (US Army, World War II)
Lt. Charles Tiessen (US Army, World War II)
Cpl. Frederick L. Wallace (US Army, World War II)
T/5 Donald C. Vetrone (US Army, World War II)
T/4 John Zambrano (US Army, World War II)
Lt. Anthony Borrego (US Army, Vietnam)
Spec. Harold J. Van Winkle Jr. (US Army, Vietnam)
PFC Anthony A. Verbickas (US Army, Vietnam)
Nicholas Cerrato (US Army, Vietnam)