SPARTA, NJ – The Veterans Day ceremony was blessed with a spring like day, bringing a large crowd to the monument in front of the Sparta VFW. Commander Peter Litchfield opened the morning’s event followed by a prayer from Marty Schweighardt.
The chaplain asked for prayers for a “world grown weary of fighting, moving to peace,” and “brothers and sisters who fought and are still fighting” for this country.
Litchfield said only .4% serve in the military in this country. In 2019 the United States armed forces are comprised of 210,000 deployed personnel and 845,600 reserve personnel according to the U.S. government statistics. There are 17,964,242 veterans in the United State.
The next day Litchfield said he was going to speak with Sparta High School students about the military as a career option and even a way to pay for college. He said he will be offering students the opportunity to speak with veterans from every branch of the military as well as to go with them to a recruiter “so they don’t sell them a bill of goods.”
The military will not only teach personal discipline and responsibility, Litchfield said, after a four year military commitment they will have skills and experiences that employers value.
“Talk about awesome responsibility,” U.S. Army Col. Todd Liebig said, “it’s important that we remember the patriots. Now more than ever it is important to take time to thank those who have served.”
Liebig said the people who served share a common bond; showing dedication to the ideals of democracy, understanding and shared knowledge for having fought for the common good and a great love for the American way of life.
“Tyrants would prevail without the dedication of the men and women in the military,” Liebig said. “Today is their day to stand tall and be recognized for their service. We must remain committed to our veterans who have sacrificed.”
Sgt. Angel Diaz reminded the crowd of Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada and the Beruit Marine Barracks bombing. He said he was 19 headed to Lebanon when the ship turned and they went to Grenada.
“Nineteen soldiers died and 200 were wounded,” in the invasion, Diaz said. “The Cubans were waiting for us…The Isle of Spice is now a democracy because of our fight.”
From Grenada, where he also served as an interpreter, Diaz went to Beruit, Lebanon in the aftermath of the bombing in which “241 lost their lives.”
In 1984 as Diaz was heading home he realized that at the age of 20 he still had his whole life to live, something that he know was not possible for the soldiers that dies in those two places.
He said he is also grateful to police and fire fighters who also put their lives on the line in service.
“Keep them in your prayers,” Diaz said. “Think of the soldiers who have died in ALL the wars.”
Litchfield called Mayor Molly Whilesmith and councilmen Dan Chiariello and Jerry Murphy to lay their wreath at the monument. The Sparta Elks Lodge, Sparta Police Department, Sparta VFW and Troop 95 all put flowers at the monument.
Schweighardt returned to the podium for a benediction before everyone went into the VFW for lunch. "If you know or see a veteran today, just say thanks."