WAYNE, NJ – This year’s Memorial Day began under a cloud-covered sky, and for the first time in Mayor Chris Vergano’s memory, there was no Memorial Day parade in Wayne. The annual parade has always been a tribute to the men and women of Wayne who have died while serving in the American armed forces. The culmination of the parade is the laying of wreaths at the Wayne veteran’s memorial located just off of Valley Road at the municipal complex.
The parade may have drawn too many people close together and so had to be put off until Labor Day when the social distancing restrictions will, hopefully, be lifted or not as strict.
It was decided by the Wayne Township Administration that the wreath-laying ceremony could be held under one certain restriction: The general public would not be allowed to attend. Instead, the ceremony was recorded and was aired later on the Township’s public access channel 77.
“We were going to have it one way or the other,” said Vergano before it began. “Whether there was just two of us, or ten of us or twenty-five of us.”
A small group of people were invited to attend and sat in chairs set six-feet apart. Members of Wayne’s Fire Department, Police Department and First-Aid Squad were there in formal dress and masks. Veterans from American Legion Post 174 were on hand as well.
Vergano welcomed the small crowd then introduced Pastor Cralo Orlando of Calvary Temple Casey to give an invocation. Casey from Bach2Rock Music School followed and sang the National Anthem in a clear, high and beautiful voice, bringing goosebumps to this reporter and receiving an enthusiastic round of applause.
Boy Scouts Darius Ristovski and Christopher Noble from Pack 134 led the Flag salute before Wayne Valley High School Choral student Sabrina Shah sang God Bless America in an equally moving tone.
“Though this year is a lot different,” said Vergano to the gathered crowd during his short speech. “This holiday is still a day of reflection to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy today. May God bless America.”
Vergano then spoke about the Hometown Heroes banners that have been placed around the town and named each individual Wayne resident who has a banner hung in his or her honor. The Mayor then read the names of those Wayne residents who were killed or missing in action while serving the American Armed forces and have had banners donated.
Rabbi Michel Gurkhov gave the benediction in a strong and passionate voice asking all of Wayne to honor not only those who have died valiantly serving their country in wars but also the front-line medical workers and first responders who have sacrificed so much while serving all of us during the current pandemic.
“May the memories of those who gave their lives fighting for our freedoms give us strength and courage to be able to move forward to better days,” said the Rabbi during his benediction.
From there, Wreaths were solemnly brought forward one-at-a-time by each group and placed around the Veteran’s Memorial. First up were the American Legion Post 174, the Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion. Next came the Wayne PBA, followed by the Wayne Memorial First Aid Squad, then each of the five Wayne Fire Departments.
The Sons of the American Legion provided the Rifle Salute which was followed by the playing of Taps by a veteran from the American Legion. The very solemn moment was capped off by the playing of Amazing Grace which was performed by Wayne Police Officers who were part of the Passaic County Pipes and Drums.
It was a beautiful moment that capped a beautiful ceremony for those that deserve our honor.