WEST ORANGE, NJ – A closing ceremony on July 4th capped off the four-day stay of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in West Orange, with Mayor Robert Parisi and members of the West Orange Township Council joining with hundreds of area residents to pay a final tribute to those who fought and died during the Vietnam War..
During its long weekend stay at West Orange High School’s Suriano Stadium, which served as the only viewing of the wall this year in New Jersey, the wall was visited by more than 8,000 people from throughout the region.
Frank Arminio, first vice president of the Vietnam Veterans of America New Jersey State Council, opened the ceremony on Tuesday by thanking everyone who helped organize and support this entire project. He especially thanked the Veterans Center for helping veterans whose emotions sometimes overtook them as they remembered their fallen comrades.
Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz, of Chabad of West Orange, delivered the closing prayer. He reminded those present that they were all there to “remember the soldiers who were a beacon of light standing up for our freedoms and liberties.”
“We can all be a beacon of light for our community,” he said.
Parisi told the crowd that one of the best parts of having the Memorial Wall come to West Orange was the many new friends he made during the four-day period.
“I found out that a proud Vietnam vet, Eugene Wilson, lives right near me,” he said. “I didn’t know it. It’s been such a pleasure to meet him.”
The mayor thanked the many businesses in the area that made donations to this project. Donations included food, supplies, plaques, tents, plants and flowers.
“It’s been a wonderful couple of days,” said Parisi. “We must always remember to honor the 58,000 Americans who died defending the very principles that each year on this day we celebrate.”
Arminio ended the ceremony by recognizing those now in the US armed forces.
“I would like to acknowledge all of the men and women currently serving to protect us,” said Arminio. “I would like to thank them.”
Following the ceremony, Shari Quirk, administrative assistant to the mayor, said that the committee overseeing where the wall is placed chose West Orange because it is the community with the most decorated vets in New Jersey.
“They also appreciated that we have named three streets after West Orange residents who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam,” said Quirk.
Streets in West Orange have been named for three Vietnam soldiers who lost their lives in battle: Pfc. James Robert Boland, Pfc. Gerald Louis DeRose and Pfc. Peter Frank Kovach. Three additional soldiers who were killed in action during their service in the Vietnam War were Maj. Charles Vanderbilt Lang, Pfc. Charles Daniel Pizzi, and SP4 Robert Walter Woods.
Quirk credited resident Dawn Arrabito with having the initial idea to bring the Traveling Memorial Wall to West Orange.
The Traveling Memorial Wall is a three-fifths replica of the original 86,110-foot length wall in Washington, DC that honors US service members of the US Armed Forces who fought in Vietnam, service members who died in service in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and those service members who were Missing in Action (MIA) during the war. The wall, which opened on November 13, 1982, was designed by Maya Lin.
Other participants in the closing ceremony included Ralph Panciello, VFW Post 376 Commander, who led the pledge of allegiance; Joe Piserchio, who sang a stirring rendition of the Star Spangles Banner; a joint Police, Fire and Military Honor Guard; and members of the Police Department performing a rifle salute.