While serving as Mayor, it’s a pleasure to work with many different organizations that are part of the fabric of our community. Randolph is extremely proud to be the home of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7333, which plays a prominent role in our community.
The mission of the VFW is to foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts; to serve veterans, the military and their communities; and to advocate on behalf of all veterans. The VFW organization traces its roots back to 1899 and was chartered by Congress in 1936. Currently, there are more than 1.6 million members of the VFW at 6,000 posts throughout the world.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Commander Scott Montanio, a third generation Marine, who has served as the Randolph VFW Commander for the past 7 years. Commander Montanio joined the Marines in 2002 and was a member of an infantry unit which kicked off Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2004, then deployed to Fallujah, Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. Commander Montanio recently shared some insights with me about the rich history of Post 7333 and its members.
Randolph Memorial VFW Post 7333 first mustered on June 14, 1946 in a location on Salem Street. Randolph resident, Pete Knothe, who was an Army medic during WWII, was one of the founding members. In the early 1950’s, Knothe donated land and was integral in building the facility on Carrell Road which still houses Post 7333 today and serves as the central location for member meetings and sponsored events.
In the early 2000’s the Post was struggling as its membership grew older and the facility on Carrell Road was in need of maintenance. Jack Sassaman, who became a member at the time is credited with revitalizing the Post. Jack then made it his mission to recruit and bring in more veterans to bring the Post back to life serving veterans and the community. Jack was an instrumental part of Post 7333 for many years. Sadly, Jack passed away suddenly last month.
Today Post 7333 has 63 members, who come from Randolph and surrounding towns. This diverse group of veterans fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. They all share the vision of the VFW, which is to ensure that all veterans are respected for their service and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of our country and to promote patriotism on a local level.
To support this vision, Post 7333 conducts several programs and activities throughout the year. Some key initiatives include:
- Each month, the members of Post 7333 visit the Lyons VA Hospital in Basking Ridge. Senior Vice Commander John Reilly organizes these visits, which also include VFW members from other Posts in Morris County. While the visits center around BINGO games and refreshments, the real purpose is to remind the veterans at the VA Hospital that what they have done for their country has not been lost or forgotten, just as they have not been forgotten.
· In May each year, the members of Post 7333 visit local cemeteries and place US flags on the graves of more than 800 veterans.
· In June, in honor of Flag Day, the members of Post 7333 hold a Flag Retirement Ceremony for flags that are worn and no longer serviceable.
· In July, the members of Post 7333 proudly lead Randolph’s Fourth of July celebration at the front of parade.
· To promote patriotism among our younger residents, Post 7333 sponsors local participation in 2 national competitions, Patriot’s Pen and The Voice of Democracy, in which middle school and high school students write essays on a patriotic theme. Members of Post 7333 also visit Randolph schools to speak about their military experiences and they serve as the sponsor for Boy Scout Troop 50.
VFW Post 7333 proudly serves the Randolph community and is highly visible and active throughout the year. One of the most significant contributions from Post 7333 to our community is the hosting of 3 solemn remembrances each year on Memorial Day, Patriots’ Day and Veterans’ Day. These events serve to bring the community together to honor our servicemen and women, show respect and gratitude to our veterans and remember the sacrifices that they made in order for us to live freely in this great country. Many residents attend these events and they have been some of the most heartwarming and inspirational experiences I have had while serving on the Randolph Township Council.
I asked Commander Montanio what he enjoys about being a member of the VFW and why he makes the time in his busy life to serve as Commander of Post 7333. He told me that what he loves about the VFW is the comradeship. “No matter the age difference or what your background is, there is a common bond of military wartime service. We all have deployed and fought for our country, and that alone makes for connections that last a lifetime. Our organization offers a group of people that hold that common thread of war veterans who remain patriotic and have a need to help others through social service and comradeship. That is what makes the VFW unique.”
I thank these wonderful people for their service to our country and to the Randolph community.