RARITAN, NJ - Raritan dignitaries and members of the Basilone family gathered at. St. Joseph’s Church Sept. 21 for the dedication ceremony renaming the Raritan Post Office as the Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone Post Office.
“This is a special town because of its rich history and the people in the town,” said Cynthia Weiss, postmaster in Raritan. “But each Marine in boot camp learns of the storied past, and they are taught that no Marine better exemplifies the traits of a Marine than John Basilone.”
On March 23, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law to rename the post office after Basilone.
Raised in Raritan, Basilone enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 1940, and was the first Marine to be presented the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II for his bravery at the Battle for Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. He is also the only enlisted World War II Marine to received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, which was awarded posthumously for his bravery at the battle of Iwo Jima.
“Basilone committed himself to this nation, and our nation is richer because of his discipline and service,” said Eric Henry, the Northern New Jersey District Manager A for the United States Postal Service. “His legacy lives on for the United States and future generations to come.”
Rep. Leonard Lance spearheaded the charge to rename the post office, and he spoke to the assembled guests before presenting a plaque with the signed legislation.
“Heroes like Basilone are worthy of this honor,” he said. “Residents of Raritan, you should forever be proud of what your son has done for the rest of us.”
“We hope he will inspire future generations,” he added. “It is fitting that the post office in Raritan will hold his name.”
Also speaking to the crowd was a representative from Sen. Cory Booker’s office, as well as a representative for Sen. Robert Menendez, who presented to Basilone’s niece, Kim Van Note, an American flag that was flown over the United States Capitol in honor of Basilone. And the Bridgewater-Raritan High School choir performed several songs, including the “Marines’ Hymn.”
“Basilone represents all that is true and honorable for the Marines,” said Major M. McDaniel Sharber, commanding officer of the recruiting station in New Jersey for the U.S. Marine Corps. “We can only hope we will uphold the virtues of Basilone.”
Raritan Mayor Charles McMullin told a story of last year’s Basilone parade, when he spoke to the general giving the keynote speech. He said he told the general that it was important to see the Basilone statue, on Old York Road, in the evening.
“The general said he came over the summit from Bradley Gardens and saw the statue,” McMullin said. “He saw Basilone ready for battle, and looked into the distance and saw the five branches of the military. He said it made sense, because they were protecting the homefront.”
McMullin said it is a great day for Raritan with the renaming of the post office.
“It is a great day for Raritan and the Marines,” he said.
John Pacifico, who has been running the Basilone parade for 37 years, said the new name of the post office will help the town preserve the memory of one of the greatest heroes in the history of the country.
Van Note said after the ceremony that she was honored to be part of the ceremony, for herself and her family. And, she said, it is a great thing for the Basilone Memorial Foundation, of which she is co-founder with Raritan councilman Don Tozzi.
“I hope everyone is proud of the foundation,” she said. “We are getting more recognition.”
The ceremony ended with an unveiling of a replica of the plaque being placed at the post office to commemorate the name change.
“This post office will help us to preserve the memory of Basilone and the 24 other men from Raritan who gave their lives in World War II, and all who served in the Armed Forces during that war,” Pacifico said. “Let us continue to preserve their memories.”