FAIRFIELD, NJ — Fairfield residents, dignitaries, police and firefighters gathered on Plymouth Street at the memorial monument in front of the VFW Hall on Monday following the West Essex Memorial Day Parade to honor America’s service men and women who fought and surrendered their lives.

“As long as two comrades survive, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States will render tribute to our heroic dead,” said Al Birchler, quartermaster of Fairfield VFW Post 7925.

An opening prayer was said by St. Thomas More Deacon Michael Pontoriero, followed by a tribute to all those who died serving the country. A wreath was also placed near the monument as a symbol of remembrance. A white flower, a symbol of purity, was then placed on the monument.

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“May each future generation emulate the unselfish courage of all men and women who fought for freedom,” Birchler said.

A red flower was placed as a tribute to devotion and everlasting remembrance, and then a blue flower was placed as an emblem of eternity.

“Its color bespeaks life everlasting,” said Birchler. “Thus do we immortalize the brave deeds of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, who have given their lives on land, on sea and in the air.”

In addition, an American flag was placed in the ground in front of the monument as a rendition of “Taps” was played.

“The flag of our country was theirs to defend,” said Birchler. “Its glorious colors shall wave over them in death as in life for everyone to behold.”

Township Council President John LaForgia stated that this Memorial Day marked the 150th anniversary of such remembrance. It was first called Decoration Day in 1868 because of the flowers placed on the graves of fallen soldiers, according to LaForgia, who also thanked everyone for coming.

Attendees were invited into the hall for a luncheon following the service, where Father Juan Pablo Esteban gave the blessings, and Julie Birchler hosted the luncheon.

Eight-year-old Cora Johnston gave her reflection on the day saying, “On Memorial Day, you should remember veterans and what they have done for us.”

As VFW member Ray DiGuilio thanked the crowd, he said he hoped everyone enjoyed their morning.

“It’s our honor and duty to remember our veterans and the flag,” said Al Birchler.

Birchler’s 18-year-old granddaughter, Sarah, who will be going to Caldwell University this fall, thanked her grandfather, saying, “Thank you for being such a powerful role model.”

His 15-year-old granddaughter, Emma, said, “I appreciate all you have done for us and how you raised our great family.”

Those interested in joining the VFW should call 973-227-9600 or 973-335-6767. Meetings are every Wednesday and Friday nights.

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