ROXBURY, NJ – The rain that forced the cancelation of this year’s Roxbury Memorial Day Parade did not keep people away from the township Senior Center to pay their respects to members of the military who died while serving the nation.
It was an often somber affair. Speakers reminded the audience that the all-American fun dampened by the inopportune rainfall – the outdoor gatherings, the hamburgers and hot dogs – are part of the beloved freedom preserved by warriors’ sacrifices.
“Today, we pay tribute to those heroic patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice, who bravely rose up and fought for something greater than themselves,” said Roxbury VFW Post 2833 Commander John Lehnert. “We honor their service. Mourn their loss and remember the families they left behind.”
There were many children in the standing-room-only audience. Many wore clothing that – in one form or another – included American flags.
Lehnert said it is crucial that the young be taught that Memorial Day is more than just a day off from school and the unofficial start of summer.
“With heavy hearts we recall those lost,” he said. “They had names. They had families. They were our brothers and sisters, uncles, dads and children. It is their ultimate sacrifice - as the grief-filled tears of the parents who have given America their own children and the spouses who are left to bear unthinkable burdens - feel their lives are forever changed. They have paid for the freedoms we enjoy today.”
Boy Scout Troop 188 Scoutmaster Michael Mangano served as the master of ceremonies and told those in attendance the story of Succasunna resident Rober Kluska, who was supposed to be the parade’s grand marshal. He said the Navy veteran spent two years on the Pacific Ocean to support the Korean War peace accord. He moved to Roxbury after being discharged in 1954, got an accounting degree, worked for Jersey Central Power & Light and, after retiring, embarked on many years of local volunteerisim, Mangano said.
Also speaking was former Navy Lt. Jeff McDonald, a 42-year-old Roxbury resident who told his story of service on submarines before, during and after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. His voice quavering at times as he recalled a fellow submariner who died, McDonald said it’s right to take time on Memorial Day to honor and recall the lost. “But let us not dwell on it so much that we lose sight of what they sacrificed for,” he said. “They gave their lives so that we could live ours, so we must celebrate for them, because of them."