WESTFIELD, NJ — The parade route was empty and the streets quiet with rainy weather the reasoning behind cancelation of this year’s Memorial Day parade. Despite a change of plans, the Westfield American Legion Martin Wallberg Post #3 quickly reorganized and held a ceremony at The First United Methodist Church on East Broad Street across from the World War I Monument Circle.
Watch video from Monday's Memorial Day Ceremony:
Opening ceremonies were delayed briefly by Allan Betau, commander of the Westfield American Legion. “We want to give everyone a chance to arrive because this is important,” he said.
After brief opening remarks from Betau, Bob D’Arecca, Chaplain for Post #3 offered an opening prayer and benediction to officially kick off this year’s ceremony.
“We remember, Lord, those who sacrificed their youth, their health, and their lives to keep our nation safe, strong and free,” he said.
Setting the event’s patriotic tone was Dale Beyert, senior at Westfield High School, who performed a trumpet solo of “Star Spangled Banner.” Beyert also performed “Echo Taps” with Dr. Ted Schlosberg from the New Jersey Workshop for the Arts. Kerry Stubbs provided an additional musical interlude with a powerful a cappella rendition of “God Bless America.”
This year’s grand marshal, Peter Braun, took time to welcome everyone to the ceremony making a point to blame local chaplains for the weather.
The ceremony continued with Mayor Andy Skibitsky’s remarks on the importance of Memorial Day.
“To my fellow Westfielders, let’s honor their sacrifice not just today, but everyday by appreciating all that we have to be thankful for and by recognizing all that we have to thank them for,” he said.
This year’s ceremony reflected on the 100-year anniversary of the United States entering into World War I. Betau took a moment to acknowledge a local hero, Martin Wallberg (for whom the Westfield American Legion is named), and his ultimate sacrifice in that war.
“He had a determination to rid the world of evil,” said Betau. “He was determined to do his part and he did.” Wallberg was killed in battle in November 1917. The American Flag attached to his bayonet was proudly displayed during the ceremony. “He died — they all died — so that we may continue to live freely in this country.”
As part of Monday's ceremony, memorial wreaths were presented and repositioned to honor our community’s fallen. Wreaths were sponsored by the American Legion, Legion Auxiliary, the Sons of the American Legion, and the Catholic Community in Westfield (presented by Father Michael Saporito, the Pastor of Saint Helen’s Church and Father Anthony Randazzo from Holy Trinity Church).
Larry Sheldon, a Westfield resident, sponsored a wreath for the U.S. Coast Guard that was presented by Martha Byrne and Margot Motyczka, both of Cadet Troop 40302.
During the ceremony, Jack Panosh, the Westfield Bell Master and town clock curator, rang a large hand bell to honor two minutes of reflection and remembrance.
After the ceremony, guests were invited to join members of the American Legion for a Memorial Day BBQ at Post #3.