ROXBURY, NJ - A 19-year-old college student, whose research will improve the completeness and accuracy of the Roxbury Veterans Memorial at Horseshoe Lake Park, said the project was “the most meaningful thing” he’s ever done.
The student, Jacob Rosenstein, is back at Bentley University now. But he will return to town Oct. 7 when the fruits of his labor are revealed at a special ceremony at the memorial.
Working as an intern in Roxbury town hall, Rosenstein spent the summer diving deep into research about Roxbury war veterans. The goal: To ensure that the memorial not only contain all the names of veterans who should be there but also that the spellings of the names currently there are all correct.
“Someone had inquired about the process of adding names to the plaques via Mayor (Mark) Crowley and because he was unsure he had (Roxbury Township Manager) John Shepherd task me with figuring out the process,” said Rosenstein.
The man who used to coordinate the plaques, Ed Kirchgessner, died. So Rosenstein “was tasked with organizing the engraving as well as finding names and misspellings to correct,” he said.
Rosenstein, a Morris County School of Technology graduate now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting, dove into the project with gusto and found himself involved in a job that was as rewarding as it was difficult, he said.
“I took a look into the old files from five to 10 years ago and found that there were about two dozen veteran request forms to be added to the memorial plaques,” Rosenstein said. “I found the criteria to be added to the plaques and reached out to each veteran, verifying their service and notifying them that their names were going to be added.”
Some of the interactions stemming from the work were pretty special, said the young man. He pointed to Roxbury resident Judy Casey, who has five family members whose names are going to be added to the memorial.
“Ms. Casey has been in the Morris County/Roxbury area since the Revolutionary War and it is truly amazing to be able to add generations of her family to these plaques,” Rosenstein said.
He noted that veterans or their family members needed to verify eligibility for inclusion on the plaques. “They had to submit their DD214 (discharge papers) and prove they were a Roxbury resident at time of enlistment and served during a time of conflict,” Rosenstein said.
He noted that four of the five discharge papers needed to verify Casey’s relatives were lost due to a fire. “So I had to track down and get as much information as I could from several sources such as Veteran Affairs, the National Archives in D.C., and even look to see if they had military headstones at their graves,” Rosenstein said.
Another memorable interaction came with a resident whose son’s birthday is approaching. He said the woman wants to surprise her son on his birthday by having his name added to the memorial.
“When I spoke to each veteran they were very glad to know they were being honored with their name on a plaque,” Rosenstein said. He said he found about four misspellings on the plaques, prompting him to contact the engraver - to fix the mistakes - as well as the involved veterans and families to notify them of the forthcoming changes.
“Jacob did a great job coordinating this effort,” Shepherd said. “It started with a few inquiries we had received concerning adding/correcting names to the various war memorial plaques. Jacob researched township records and spoke with various township staff until we had a handle on how to address these inquiries.”
The manager said Rosenstein contacted Mark Beesley of MB Manufacturing Inc. about engraving some new names and correcting spellings on the existing plaques. “Mark and his company were gracious enough to take on this project and do it at no cost since the project honors veterans,” he said.
Rosenstein has been involved in other community-minded organizations and activities, including the Key Club and Habitat for Humanity. But the Roxbury veteran project touched him deeper than anything else, he said.
“This is definitely the most meaningful thing I have worked on in my life,” Rosenstein said. “To know that I have played some part in honoring veterans who risked their lives daily to protect us means everything. To some, these plaques might just be metal with names … honoring veterans. But to me it is a daily reminder that there are always those willing to step into the danger headfirst and say, ‘I'm ready to serve.’”