November 11, 2009

Mayor Booker, G.I. Go Fund, Prudential, and PSEG Observe Veterans' Day at Military Park Ceremony

Veterans of all American wars are recognized in solemn ceremony; Flag lowered to half-mast to honor 13 victims of Fort Hood shooting incident

NEWARK, NJ - Mayor Cory A. Booker, the Municipal Council, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, G.I. Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous, Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld, President PSEG Fossil Rich Lopriore, and other dignitaries joined with Essex County veterans’ organizations to observe Veterans’ Day with a solemn flag-raising ceremony this morning at Newark’s Downtown Military Park, at Raymond Boulevard and Broad Street. Veterans’ Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, is a federal holiday that honors American veterans of all wars.

“We in Newark drink today from the wells of liberty that were dug by other hands,” Mayor Booker said. “Liberty demands constant sacrifice, and countless numbers of men and women from this community have stepped forward and made those sacrifices for us. Today, in an unequivocal and collective voice, Newark says ‘thank you’ for that commitment and sacrifice.”

At the start of the ceremony, the Essex County Emerald Society Police and Fire Pipes and Drums played the official anthems of all the military service branches as the Guardsmen slowly raised the “Stars and Stripes” on the historic “Liberty Pole” over Military Park. A crowd of Prudential and PSEG employees in attendance saluted as the flag unfurled, and observed a moment of silence as the flag was then lowered to half-mast to honor the 13 victims of the Fort Hood shooting incident last week.

The American flag used for the ceremony was donated to the City of Newark by Prudential, which was the sponsor of the event. The flag flew over the Army’s Convoy Support Center in Scania, Iraq, during Operation Enduring Freedom on June 15th, 2008. The flag was then presented by the 73rd Cavalry Regiment to Prudential Senior Vice President and Chief Auditor Tom Carroll for today’s ceremony.

“We are very proud of the service of America’s veterans and of their commitment to our country,” said Mr. Strangfeld. “The historic flag that we are donating to the City of Newark for our joint celebration of Veterans’ Day is a small tribute to the valor and sacrifice of our veterans.”

Prudential is also observing Veterans’ Day by displaying military rations in their cafeterias and displaying uniforms and equipment in the main lobby of their Washington Street building. An American flag that flew over the Marine Corps Combat Base in An Hoa, Vietnam, in 1970, will also be displayed in the lobby of the Prudential Plaza Building.

The flag-raising Guardsmen also came from a proud lineage: Headquarters and Alpha Companies of the Manhattan-based 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, the famed “Fighting 69th” that earned medals and distinction for its courage in two World Wars.

Pfc. Phillip Button, one of the flag-raisers from the 69th Infantry, has already done a tour in Iraq. “My unit provided security for US Marine Corps engineers when they went out to do work,” he said. “We were lucky - the only casualty was a sprained ankle. This event today was fantastic.”

Residents of Newark have served in all of America’s wars from the American Revolution to Afghanistan and Iraq. Three Newark residents have died in the latter two operations, while hundreds of other Newarkers just returned this year from those campaigns, as part of the largest overseas deployment of New Jersey National Guardsmen since World War II. During the ceremony two New Jersey veterans who recently returned from tours in Iraq were recognized: Army Sgt. Richard Turner, who is a representative from the office of U.S. Congressman Donald Payne, and former Marine Sergeant Joe Pace, now a PSEG Newark-based employee.

Mr. Pace joined the Marines shortly after the deadly terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and served three tours in Iraq. After leaving the Corps, he attended a veterans’ job fair hosted by the G.I. Go Fund at NJIT, where he gained a job with PSEG. At today’s ceremony Mr. Pace presented the Mayor with a commemorative plaque to thank him for his support of Newark’s veterans.

“The reason this country is great is because of the men and women who volunteer to defend our borders, and make us the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Mr. Pace said. “I am so grateful to see everyone here giving support to our veterans.”

“We do not do enough to recognize the men and women in our Armed Forces who carry the great burden and responsibility of defending America. Fortunately, our military is made up of many brave Americans and we are indebted to them for their extraordinary accomplishments. Veterans remind us that freedom isn’t free, and the least we can do is say ‘Thank you,’” said Rich Lopriore, President PSEG Fossil. He manages a portfolio of 15 power plants in five states.

“It is always wonderful to see so many people celebrating veterans and the tremendous sacrifice they have made to make us free. I hope that we can move forward from today treating every day as if it were Veterans Day because not only do our veterans deserve it they need it,” said Mr. Fanous. “I am hopeful today, because we are seeing our City coming together to provide veterans with the support they need.”

Veterans from American Legion Gibraltar Post 326, made up of Prudential employees, attended the event, wearing the Legion’s distinctive blue hats. “It’s great to see such support and so many people come out and say ‘thanks,’” said post member and Prudential IT Project Manager Matt Corning. “People will come up to us in our cubicles back at work later today and say that, too. It really makes you feel good.” Mr. Corning served 20 years in the Marines and the New Jersey National Guard.