In 2018, as leaders from local veterans’ groups debated planning for the annual Memorial Day observance, they agreed that it should be more than just a day focused on a colorful parade, picnics, and the start of the summer vacation season. They were looking for people who would initially take more time to follow the original reason that started the popular national holiday. They want the children and future generations to be aware, “those who gave and those who gave all” to protect the nation, its people and its liberties.
Membership in West Milford American Legion Post 289 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7198 is much smaller today than it was originally when the posts were established many years ago, but they have a tremendous amount of help from other organizations and individuals who help them in reaching out help their goals, according to Bob Allwood, who organized this year’s celebration.
The two veterans’ organizations are dedicated to creating memorials in Veterans Park to help people remember those who died. Three sites are available for viewing and meditation at any time.
Bill Johnson and Pat Loughman, leaders of West Milford American Legion Post 289 and West Milford Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7198, respectively, addressed the Township of West Milford Council at a public meeting in 2018, telling officials they wanted to help the public to understand the true and very different purposes of Memorial Day in May and Veterans Day in November.
Memorial Day (originally known as Decoration Day) in May is an annual federal holiday for grieving US service members who have died while serving in the US armed forces. It is observed today on the last Monday in May and was formerly May 30 from 1869 to 1970. It was introduced as a time for visiting cemeteries or memorials.
Veterans Day, observed on November 11, honors all military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Many are still alive and participate in ceremonies held across the country. Originally known as Armistice Day, it marked the end of World War I on the 11th month and day. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
Speaking before the ward council, the two veterans’ representatives said that they saw too much emphasis on grocery sales, vacation plans, parades and merriment on both days and that they wanted to focus more on the original purpose of the holiday.
Visitors who went to the park on Memorial Day this year saw those changes being fulfilled. Three mini memorials now provide a place for devotional reflection. As memorial trees planted long ago to honor local veterans killed in the war era are decaying and need to be removed, veterans spoke of replacing them with tombstones. They also asked the local council at the time to ensure that all inquiries about proposed Veterans Park projects go directly to the Veterans Council.
Allwood reported that this year’s formal ceremony, parade and subsequent celebrations were very well attended. Patricia Wenzel, a local pastor, offered prayer and reflection as the congregation considered the reasons for Memorial Day.
The veterans hope the public won’t wait until another holiday to visit the park on the specially designated days, but will go there year-round to remember “those who gave — and.” those who have given everything”.