WALL TOWNSHIP — Hundreds made their way to the Wall Township Municipal Complex on Monday to take part in a ceremony honoring the military men and women who lost their lives in defense of American freedom.
Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, began more than 150 years ago in the wake of the Civil War when citizens would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers from both sides of the conflict each spring. It has been a federal holiday since 1971.
Wall Township continued its long history of honoring its veterans with Monday’s ceremony at an appropriate spot, the Major General Harry J. Rockefeller II monument.
The event included a flyover from the Northeast Raiders vintage T-34 planes and a salute to the flag led by the Wall High School Color Guard and three local Girl Scout troops, Allenwood Daisy Troop 857, Allenwood Brownie Troop 830 and Central Brownie Troop 962.
Deacon John Little of the Roman Catholic parish of St. Catharine and St. Margaret’s led a prayer and moment of silence, followed by a singing of the national anthem by Wall Intermediate School seventh grader Riley Wilbert.
“I want to thank you all for coming out this morning to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Mayor Tim Farrell said.
Also present on Monday were state assemblyman Sean Kean, Monmouth County Commissioner Dominick DiRocco and members of the Wall Township committee.
“Wall Township always does this the right way with an appropriately calibrated service. We don’t necessarily celebrate, but we memorialize and I think that’s the best way to recognize those who gave the last full measure,” Mr. DiRocco said.
This year’s keynote speaker was Major Katelyn Campbell, a former resident of Wall Township and veteran of the United States Army.
Maj. Campbell, who runs her own private dental practice in Forked River, said that this Memorial Day is especially important after the devastating loss of life among the oldest members of our society, many of whom served in the military.
“While it may seem surreal, this is the second Memorial Day we’ve observed in a world changed by a global pandemic,” she said. “But even though the patterns of our lives have been upended in so many ways over the past year, it is by continuing to observe the sacred traditions that bind us together so we grow in strength. I can’t think of a tradition more worthy of preservation than this day that’s been set aside to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in battle against the tyranny and injustice in service to a nation unlike any other.
“Although the focus of Memorial Day has always been and always should be to honor those who sacrificed their lives, this year is a little different. This year, we also need to recognize the members of the greatest generation. It is estimated that while nearly 16 million wore a uniform in World War II, sadly there are no fewer than 300,000 of these men and women still alive. We know that COVID-19 has taken these heroes that survived bullets and bombs in places like Iwo Jima and Normandy at rates far higher than the rest of the population.
“We acknowledge that this year has been one of heartbreak and sorrow as this relentless virus has been particularly cruel to our oldest and most vulnerable veterans.”
Maj. Campbell’s remarks were followed by more patriotic performances: Leah Yates, a Wall Intermediate School eighth grader, sang “God Bless America” followed by Joseph Buono, a Wall High School junior who played taps.
Officer Chad Clark of the Wall Township Police Department also performed “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes to conclude.
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