CRANBURY, NJ – As the flashing lights of area first responder vehicles pulled back onto Main Street from the Memorial Day parade route, a small crowd gathered under cloudy skies in Memorial Park Monday afternoon to honor the sacrifice of service men and women, past and present.
Following an invocation given by Hannah Lovaglio of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury, Cranbury Lions Club President Elaine Homoky thanked everyone for attending and participating in the 84th annual parade sponsored by the Lions Club.
She then shared a few words from Lions Club member Frank Vesci, in honor of the nation's veterans.
Vesci is a former Marine and a veteran of the Vietnam war, according to Homoky.
“No one goes into war or enters the battlefield saying, 'I love this!'” Homoky read. “They enter that arena to do the impossible at times, to stay alive and fight for freedom and love of our country. There are never any regrets to defend our great nation, the United States of America.”
Homoky continued Vesci's thoughts by saying thank you to all the veterans who have served or are presently serving.
“This Memorial Day, love your country, cherish your family and be grateful for good friends and remember our veterans,” she said. “Let us give thanks to God for a blessed nation.”
As the somber strains of “Taps” filled the air, a color guard made up of two Girl Scouts, a Boy Scout and a Webelos Scout lowered the flag to half staff, and laid two wreathes in front of the monument memorializing Cranbury's veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Resident Jennifer Collins then performed “The Star Spangled Banner,” accompanied by a youth community band.
Addressing the crowd, Mayor David Cook called to mind the commitment and bravery of ordinary citizens of the fledgling American republic, a number of whom spent the nights before the Battle of Monmouth encamped near Memorial Park under the command of George Washington.
“The individuals whose names are on the monuments behind me and in front of me were citizens like us,” Cook said. “They were from our county, from our town, they were from Cranbury. They also were ordinary citizens living in the most extraordinary times.”
Without the selflessness of those who have fallen, the fabric of the state and nation would be altogether different, he said. Cranbury would not be Cranbury.
“I ask all of you now not to mourn those who have died, but to thank God that these heroes lived,” Cook said. “Because they have truly accomplished in their history all that was humanly possible.”
State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) and Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14) were also in attendance.
“This is a very, very important day because it is a day to look back and to think about the people who have made the ultimate sacrifice, or have been in war and have been grievously wounded and, in that sense, have made a large sacrifice,” Greenstein said. “We think back to that and realize how very special these people were and yet, in some ways, ordinary people. These are people who felt it was their duty.”
Greenstein said that her father served in Europe during World War II in the infantry, but that she didn't know very much about his service when she was growing up.
“He never talked about it and we hear that about so many people who were at war and really never talked about it,” she said. “They just felt it was part of life, it was part of duty and that's why they were doing it, but in so doing they preserved this wonderful nation.”
Benson said that often when veterans come home from serving in the armed forces, they continue to serve their communities in other ways, such as volunteering to serve on community boards, as elected officials, as first responders and simply in raising their families.
“Our veterans never stop serving,” he said. “Whether they're in uniform or out, they're always standing up for our freedom and we should remember them in all their capacities and thank them and their family members for those sacrifices.”
Serving as emcee, Committeeman Glenn Johnson announced the winners of the bicycle decoration contest and the spring raffle winners.
While the threat of rain and the cooler temperatures may have kept some people indoors, Parade Organizer Phyllis Johnson said she was happy with the turnout.
“The main thing is to recognize everybody who serves, and it has to be a public recognition,” Johnson said. “So that's a big reason we do it.”
According to the Lions Club, this year's Memorial Day parade was sponsored by Barlow & Zimmer Funeral Home, Brown Dog Produce (Simonson Farms), Cranbury Business Association, Cranbury Limousine Service, The Elms of Cranbury, First Bank, 1st Constitution Bank, Gil & Bert's Ice Cream, Herr's Plumbing, RA Nichols Plumbing & Heating and Teddy's Restaurant.