WEST ORANGE, NJ - A standing room only crowd filled the front of Town Hall as West Orange held its annual Memorial Day Ceremony honoring past and present West Orange residents that have fought on behalf of the country.
This year's 15 honorees of the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal now brings the total of decorated veterans in West Orange to 345, making it New Jersey's most decorated community. This year's ceremony was dedicated to Peter F. Kovach, a lifelong resident of West Orange, who was killed in Vietnam at the age of 19.
Gary Englert, Chair of the West Orange Commission on Military and Veteran Affairs, opened the ceremony. Lisa Coppola and Julian Hernandez, renown New Jersey artists, sang "The Prayer," followed by the Posting of Colors by the West Orange Fire Department. Deputy Mayor Ralph Panciello led the Pledge of Allegiance and the West Orange Brass Quintet played the National Anthem. Monsignor Kelly of Seton Hall Prep gave both the Invocation and Benediction.
Mayor Robert Parisi then gave his opening remarks, which poignantly recounted the real purpose of Memorial Day, and noted that 404 members of the U.S. armed forces have died in service to the country over the past year alone.
Retired Brigadier General William Marshall then presented the Distinguished Service Medals as family, friends, and community members snapped photographs and clapped in appreciation. Of particular note, one of the posthumous recipients, James Fagan, Sr., now joins his son James Fagan, Jr., as the only father and son to receive the DSM for fighting in the same war (WWII).
Town Council Members then brought wreaths to the town memorial on behalf of the Gold Star Mothers (Mothers who lost a child during WWII), and the performers sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water." After a Rifle Salute by the NJ National Guard Rifle Squad accompanied by Taps, the fire department retired the colors, and Coppola closed the event with "Wind Beneath My Wings."