may 26, 2011

Mayor Cory A. Booker, GI Go Fund and Newark Veterans Observe Memorial Day with Ceremony at Basilone Memorial

Newark pays tribute to City residents who have fallen in all of America’s wars; Ceremony pays tribute to WWII Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone

Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker presents proclamation to Brigadier General (Ret.) John Nunn for his years of service

NEWARK, NJ – Mayor Cory A. Booker, retired New Jersey National Guard Brigadier General and Newark Police Lieutenant John M. Nunn, GI Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous, representatives of Newark veterans’ organizations, and other dignitaries hosted a Memorial Day Flag and Wreath Laying Ceremony to honor Newark residents who have made the ultimate sacrifice for America’s freedom today at the memorial for Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, who received the Medal of Honor for his valor on Guadalcanal and a posthumous Navy Cross on Iwo Jima, the only enlisted Marine to do so in World War II.

The annual ceremony was organized for the third straight year by the GI Go Fund and the Mayor’s Office of Communications. The ceremony was restored as an annual observance in May 2009 by the Booker Administration, for the first time since 1967. GI GO Fund Deputy Director Alexander Manis served as Master of Ceremonies. The event was co-sponsored by the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Hall of Fame, Advance Realty, Vitas Hospice Care, and NJ Transit.

“Memorial Day is a very important day in the City of Newark. We offer respect for those who faced the horrors and challenges of war and died in the dark of a foreign land so that we could live in the sunlight of freedom,” Mayor Booker said. “We owe everything to the men and women who, when they were called, stepped forward, whether in George Washington’s army or to Afghanistan and Iraq. Today I stand in humble reverence to these men and women.”

“Memorial Day is a day that allows the civilian population an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices so many men and women have made to preserve our own personal freedoms. Their sacrifice can be further honored on a daily basis by caring for the members of our military who did make it home safe, by telling those men and women that we as a nation love them and are here for them. Mayor Booker has been steadfast in his commitment to not only honoring those who have fallen but also in assisting those who have returned; something I hope we all will join him in as our military continue to return from combat,” said GI Go Fund Executive Director Fanous.

Singled out for recognition was General Nunn, who distinguished himself as a police officer with anti-narcotics work and as a soldier with his service in Iraq in 2004. At the time of his retirement from the Guard in 2010, General Nunn was serving as assistant adjutant general.

“Memorial Day is about those that have served and given their life for their country. As we start the summer, let us always remember these men and women, and those still in harm’s way,” said General Nunn.

After the speeches, a Newark Fire Department color guard led the dignitaries to the Basilone Memorial, where Mayor Booker, General Nunn, and Newark Police Officers laid a memorial wreath. Newark Firefighter Ray Montalvo played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes while Gateway Security staff lowered the Stars and Stripes to half-staff. Newark municipal employees Jerry Capanear and Ramon M. Lago were in attendance at the event, as well.

Newark Special Police Officer Anthony Catulo, said, “This was an excellent ceremony. It’s great to see this generation still remembering what the veterans did. Events like this ensure that people remember.” Mr. Catulo lived for 35 years in Newark, and served in the Pacific Theater with the 1st Marine Air Wing and the 6th Marine Division during the war. “Today’s warriors are doing a different job, and doing it well. Their patriotism is terrific.”

A veteran of two tours in Iraq, Paul Costa, of Garfield, said the event was a “great commemoration of all who served and lost their lives for what we are today.” Mr. Costa, who works for Gateway Security, was recently discharged from the US Army. “We have to honor all the troops who served and thank them every day for the freedoms we enjoy every day,” he added.

The City of Newark and its residents have served America since the American Revolution. More than 100 Newarkers died in the Vietnam War, as well as four in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, the City of Newark welcomed home 100 residents who served in New Jersey National Guard and Reserve units, from their deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. These warriors were among the largest deployment of New Jersey National Guard members overseas since World War II.

Sgt. Basilone, a Raritan native, served in the Marine Corps at Guadalcanal, where he fended off Japanese attacks, earning a Medal of Honor. He refused stateside assignments after that, insisting on fighting with his fellow Marines in the Pacific. At Iwo Jima, he was killed by Japanese mortar fire, and earned a posthumous Navy Cross for his leadership. He is to be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame on Sunday, June 5, along with its newest class of inductees. The class includes another New Jersey World War II figure, Admiral of the Fleet William F. Halsey, who led the US Navy’s 3rd Fleet against Japan. Admiral Halsey was born in Elizabeth.

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in military service and is observed on the last Monday of the month of May. It began as a holiday to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War but after World War I, it was expanded to include American casualties of any war or military action.

The GI Go Veterans Transition Center of Newark is a non-profit office that provides and coordinates a vast array of services and support to veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Currently operating from a centralized location in Newark City Hall, The GI Go Veterans Transition Center provides veterans with support for VA enrollment, mental wellness, securing employment, education advancement, and financial support, among other things. The center is unique, as it is the first-ever partnership between a municipality and a non-governmental organization (NGO) to support veterans and address their issues in the nation’s history.

The center has seen and communicated with more than 750 veterans since its inception in November 2008, connecting them with the VA and state agencies for the benefits entitled to them. In addition nearly 7,000 veterans from across the state and 1,100 Newark Veterans have attended GI Go Job Fairs, taking the opportunity to meet with 150 different employers. GI Go outreach events have reached 600 veterans, 1,200 of whom are homeless, connecting them with the various federal, state and non-profit agencies dedicated to assisting our nation’s veterans. GI Go’s financial assistance program has helped 16 different veteran families avoid foreclosure, eviction, and utility shut-offs, and provided 26 different families with much-needed emergency grocery assistance.

For more information on other GI Go Fund programs, visit www.gigofund.org or call the GI Go Veterans Transition Center at (973) 802-1479.