WESTFIELD, NJ – Floats, veterans, boy scouts, marching band members and sunshine awed spectators along Broad Street Monday morning during the annual Memorial Day parade in Westfield.
The morning’s festivities began at the World War I memorial a few minutes after nine on Broad Street. Peter Hogaboom, a U.S. Navy veteran, was the master of ceremonies for this year’s parade. He introduced three Westfield National Guard vehicles, which participated in the parade, as well as Westfield organizations including the American Legion and the Boy Scouts who contributed to the celebration.
Officials and veterans filled the ceremony with prayers for those who have fallen and soldiers who still fight, the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, laying wreathes and delivering speeches.
Bill Kessinger, the parade’s Grand Marshal, was one of the veterans who spoke at the opening ceremony. He is currently the commander of the Westfield American Legion and a Korean War veteran.
Kessinger spoke about the many services provided by the legion, including scholarships, leaving flags at the graves of veterans and sending monthly goods to soldiers overseas.
“I’m going to thank everybody that comes down to these parades,” Kessinger said. “When I was in Korea, I wasn’t some big hero, but I was there. And some guys didn’t come home.”
Mayor Andrew Skibitsky spoke after Kessinger and reminded the crowd of the freedoms that veterans have provided and protected for Americans. He thanked spectators for coming, saying that their presence proved that people knew freedom didn’t come cheaply.
“Home is a powerful word and one that we as Americans take for granted every day,” he said. “Unlike millions throughout the world, who are displaced within their communities, their countries, or exiled, we as Americans have a place to call home.”
Kerry Stubbs, a resident of Kenilworth and Elizabeth Public Schools teacher, sang “God Bless America” at the morning’s ceremony. His performance received a resounding round of applause from the entire crowd.
“I always wanted to be part of the military but I went to college instead,” he said. “And this is my way of giving back.”
“Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipes by an officer in the Union County Sheriff’s department, and Dr. Ted Schlosberg, founder of New Jersey Workshop for the Arts, played Taps on the trumpet.
The music was the highlight of the parade for residents like Alan Garber. While this was Garber’s first time at the Westfield parade, he has been to other township’s parades in the past.
“The speeches at the memorial were absolutely wonderful,” Garber said, as he watched the floats down Broad Street.
Garber was not the only admirer of this year’s parade. Erik Allen and his young daughter, both Westfield residents, have been attending the parades for the last three years. Although they enjoy the floats and music every year, Allen’s favorite part is the veterans.
“It’s special for them,” Allen said. “We normally don’t get to show our appreciation. So it’s really special for them.”