MONTVILLE, NJ – The sun shone brightly as Montville Township residents gathered to pay their respects to their fellow residents who are veterans, and to thank them and veterans who have died in military service for our country. The Montville Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5481 held a heart-felt ceremony featuring a guest appearance by Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and a flyover by a high performance aircraft.

A flyover of a Beechcraft Baron twin engine high performance aircraft with retractable landing gear took place following the National Anthem. It had been arranged by Commander Steve Schepis of the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Air Station Lincoln Park Flotilla 10-01.

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-11) said that she had heard so many wonderful stories about people from New Jersey and their service.

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“As you know, we in New Jersey have been serving this country from the very start – from the Revolutionary War up until today,” she said. “I’ve heard stories like the gentleman from Morris Plains who, believe it or not, led the 529-plane formation over the U.S.S. Missouri to convince the Japanese that they had made the correct decision to surrender.

"This morning, I heard from Pete in Mountain Lakes, who served honorably in Korea, only to have his son, also a Marine and CH-46 pilot, give his life in Korea, unfortunately, in a helicopter accident. He was protecting our freedom just like his father had. I’m anxious to talk today to [Montville VFW post member] Howard Baker, who, as we know, has done wonderful things for our country.

"We are getting close to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, where people really protected our freedom, where they freed us from the yoke of Nazism, where they brought the light of democracy and let it shine across the world.

“I would like to quickly tell you the story of Private Brodish, who was killed on that day. He served at Picatinny Arsenal in the bomb disposal unit. He went over to serve, clearing the artillery from the beaches. Unfortunately a German 88mm ordinance exploded over his position and he was killed, but he served honorably until he was 22 and died for his country.

“We have people who have been serving from across our district and across our state, from the beginning of our nation. It’s an honor to be here today and remember all of them." 

Sherrill concluded by asking all veterans in attendance to stand and be recognized.

Post Commander Elect Ken Hanzl led the event for the first time since the death of former post commander and long time ceremony MC Frank Warholic.

“It was our first event since Frank’s death,” said Hanzl. “We wanted to do a bang-up job, in his memory.”

Hanzl told the assembly that the flag has a very special duty on Memorial Day.

“You may have noticed that we have our flag at half staff,” he said. “This is done before noon, to recognize all who have died in the service of our country. It is flown at full staff after 12 noon for all service members.”

Post Commander Andy Vyniski gave some background on Memorial Day while Mayor Richard Conklin thanked the veterans for hosting a ceremony at which residents could “reflect, honor, and remember the approximately three million men and women in our military who have given their lives to preserve and protect the United States of America in the freedoms, liberties and quality of life that we all enjoy today.”

He encouraged residents to remember and support the police, living veterans and military members, and first responders who put their lives on the line to protect the country every day.

Police Explorers Post 805 members Alexander Benno, Joey Cirkus and Pam Danko laid wreaths for the ceremony. The first wreath was to honor all victims of terror, and deceased firefighters, police officers and all members of emergency services. The second wreath was to honor all deceased veterans and VFW Members who passed away last year.

Post members who died included: Russell Baker, 92; Edwin E Beil, 88; Arthur F Brunner, 96; Hjalmar Johansson, 94; Charles R Keown, 94; Donald P Kostka, 88; Peter Luyster, Sr., 87; William R Paes, 80; Michael Palma, 94; Frank S Warholic, 88; and Ralph F Zito, 89.

In addition to the 11 members had been lost, the post also honored four World War II post members who attended: Howard Baker, Gerry Gemian, Joe Quade and Herbert Terner.

Montville Township High School students Jeffery Gallop (junior) sang the National Anthem, Jackson Kroll (junior) played the snare drum for the Color Guard and Noah HussainSiraj (senior) performed “Taps.” Pastor Donald Kirschner of the Montville and Boonton United Methodist Churches offered the opening prayer and benediction. Nick Visco led the assembly in singing patriotic songs. Veteran Victor Camaya, recently honored by the Morris County Freeholders, was also in attendance with his family for the ceremony.