SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Marine Corps Colonel Konstantine Zoganas, an Iraq War veteran and Scotch Plains resident since 1995, will serve as grand marshal of the 2018 Scotch Plains-Fanwood Memorial Day Parade on May 28.
Col. Zoganas graduated from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in 1987 and worked as an accountant. After attending a friend's wedding in Newport, he "felt a calling" and enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1990. One of the older enlisted men, his colleagues, sometimes almost a decade younger, referred to him as "pops."
"There's no greater honor than serving your country," said Col. Zoganas, whose father served in a M*A*S*H* unit in Korea. "The military is a fantastic route. You have the opportunity to lead as an 18 or 19-year-old. You make life-and-death decisions that impact your own men and the lives of the people of that country."
Upon graduation from training at Parris Island, he attended the Fire Direction Controlmens course at Ft. Sill, OK, and was assigned to Alpha Battery 1st Battalion, 10th Marines in Camp Lejeune, NC. He was selected for Officer Candidate School in 1992 and was commissioned on April 10, 1992.
While assigned to Battery R, 5th Bn, 10th Marines he served as Forward Observer, Fire Direction Officer, Guns Platoon commander, and Battery Executive Officer. He left active service in September 1995 and entered the Marine Corps Reserve in March 1996. He later served as Operations and Executive Officer from November 2003 to May 2009 and was deployed to Iraq from July 2006 - April 2007. As Task Force Military Police Executive Officer in command of 1,500 Marines, his mission included setting up convoy escorts for military suppliers, managing the regional detention facility, working with military dogs, and training the Iraqi police force.
"Training the Iraqi police was the toughest part of the mission. Patriotism wasn't always their strength. Many of them were just in it for the pay check," Col. Zoganas said. "The Iraqi people want the same things we want -- they want to raise their children and have a good life."
Col. Zoganas later commanded the 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines, from May 2009 – July 2011. He was reassigned later to the Marine Air Ground Task Force Staff Training Program in Quantico, VA, where he served as the detachment Operations Officer and subsequently the Chief of Staff from October 2013 – August 2017. He is currently assigned to the National Defense University in Washington D.C., where he provides training and exercise support to the Center for Applied Strategic Learning, and will retire on June 1. His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
In civilian life, Col. Zoganas is currently employed as SVP and Director of Information Technology for Lakeland Bank. He remains active at St. Bartholomew The Apostle parish and serves on several ministries. Additionally, he is an active member of UNICO and the Scotch Plains Italian American Club. He is married to the former Barbara Suriano of Scotch Plains. They have one son, Niko, a fourth grader.
"It's a big deal to serve as grand marshal. I'm honored that the Township of Scotch Plains sees enough in me to lead the Memorial Day Parade," Col. Zoganas said. "In my remarks, I plan to acknowledge the support system of the families who are left behind (when soldiers are deployed). They are part of 'the fallen'."
Memorial Day Schedule
On Memorial Day (Monday, May 28), there will be a memorial service and presentation of wreaths at 9:00 a.m. at the Fanwood Memorial Library at 5 Forest Road. A memorial tribute and laying of wreaths will take place at 10:00 a.m. at the gazebo on Park Avenue and Front Street in downtown Scotch Plains, where the 2018 Memorial Day Parade will proceed along Park Avenue to Martine Avenue into downtown Fanwood. The parade ends at La Grande Park in Fanwood.