FAIRFIELD, NJ — At a special meeting of the Fairfield mayor and council, the governing body officially proclaimed that the area on Horseneck Road between Fairfield Road and Plymouth Street will be ceremonially named “Corporal Neal D. Epifanio Way” in memory of a Fairfield resident who died in the Vietnam War 50 years ago on Sept. 3, 1969.
“The Township of Fairfield will never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by Fairfield resident Corporal Neal David Epifanio and all those other veterans who have defended the United States of America to protect the freedom and liberty we all still enjoy,” the proclamation states.
During West Essex High School’s “Honor Our Heroes” initiative held on Wednesday morning, Epifanio’s family received a copy of the street sign. (Click here for coverage of this event.)
According to the proclamation, Epifanio was born on Oct. 8, 1950 to Gerald and Phyllis Epifanio and resided at 191 Horseneck Road in Fairfield with his parents and brother, Philip.
He was a member of both the Fairfield Dutch Reformed Church and the Fairfield Methodist Church, and graduated from West Essex High School in 1968. He then enlisted in the United States Army, where he trained for a year as a mobile radio telephone operator (RTO) specialist and was assigned to the premier 101st Airborne Division, 1st Battalion, Army 502nd Strike Force Infantry.
In July of 1969, Epifanio went to Vietnam and participated as a mobile radio operator, doing quick strike force landings via Huey helicopter.
On Sept. 3, 1969, Epifanio’s 502nd Infantry patrol received enemy fire; 14 Huey helicopters were dispatched to the Quang Nam Province extrication zone that was studded with tall trees, requiring that the aircraft takeoff in a particular direction.
According to the proclamation. The first seven Huey’s successfully maneuvered the trees, with the eighth being waved off on its first approach due to artillery strikes near the pickup zone but landed without difficulty on the second approach. Epifanio was the fifth soldier to hop on the helicopter, giving it its maximum load.
On lift off, the blades of the helicopter struck a 60-foot tree, causing a crash and killing four crewmen and five passengers, including Epifanio.
In other news, an ordinance was also introduced during the council meeting that if approved would change the set-back requirement along Fairfield Road and Passaic Avenue.
According to Mayor James Gasparini, the amended set-back requirement would push buildings farther from the road, making the buildings more aesthetically pleasing. If approved by the planning board, the public hearing will be held during the next council meeting on Monday, Nov. 25 at 7:00 p.m.
Councilman John LaForgia was pleased to announce that both the recent senior luncheon at the Double Tree and the township’s Trunk or Treat were successes, with 250 seniors attending the luncheon and nearly 600 children attending the Halloween event despite it being moved indoors. He thanked municipal alliance, recreation department, the public library, the department of public works and all others who assisted in these events.