SUMMIT, NJ - A steady rain and unseasonably cool temperatures may have resulted in the cancelation of its annual parade, but weather conditions could not dampen the Hilltop City's commitment to join a grateful nation in honoring and remembering the women and men who have laid down their lives to protect America's freedoms.
A crowd of several hundred endured the inclemency to pay their respects at Summit's Memorial Day Ceremony, held on a soggy Village Green, and which centered on poems and pageantry traditional and commensurate with the occasion.
Emceed and led by Memorial Day events co-chair Andy Smith, the event included a prayer from the Reverend Dr. Denison D. Harrield, Jr. of the Wallace Chapel AME Zion Church, and featured the laying of three wreaths by Lois Hageman, Beacon Fire Chapter - Daughters of American Revolution; Michael Williams, Summit Elks Lodge #1246; and Lieutenant Colonel William K. Rapp (Ret.).
Poems -- "Names of Valor: A Poetry of Names" and "Flanders Field" -- were read by Samuel Gouveia and Grace Gouveia, respectively, of Jefferson Elementary School.
The colors were presented by the Summit Fire Department and Summit Police Department Honor Guards, and the Police Honor Rifle Guard provided a rifle salute.
Summit Mayor Nora Radest addressed those assembled, telling the crowd, "Today is a day when it is important to remember who we are and how we got here. Our freedom and way of life are truly precious and we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our veterans who loved our country enough to stand in defense of America and protect us here and throughout the world."
Radest later continued by saying, "I find the words of President Benjamin Harrison to ring particularly true today. He once said, 'I have never been able to think of this day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate today. Instead, I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did'."
At the Ceremony, it was announced that Rich Madden and, posthumously, Thom von Haas were being honored with Veteran's Achievement Awards.
As the rain intensified and the Ceremony drew to a close, Summit High School's Sam Kaplan played "Taps", traditionally presented at dusk, during flag ceremonies, and at military funerals by the U.S. Armed Forces.