MaY 28, 2010

The G.I. Go Fund and the City of Newark Observes Memorial Day with City Hall Ceremony

Newark pays tribute to City residents who have fallen in all of America’s wars; North Ward native and Purple Heart recipient honored for his valor in Afghanistan; Newark Veterans Commend Booker Administration for restoring ceremony after 42 year gap

NEWARK, NJ – Mayor Cory A. Booker, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, State Senator Teresa Ruiz, Members of the Newark Municipal Council, Acting Business Administrator Michael Greene, Police Director Garry F. McCarthy, Fire Chief Michael Lalor, G.I. 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. The annual ceremony was organized for the second straight year, by the G.I. 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.

At the ceremony, an audience of veterans, firefighters, Malcolm X Shabazz Junior ROTC students, and Newark residents heard speakers offer moving testimonies of valor and sacrifice in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Also in attendance of the event were Governor Chris Christie’s Constituent Liaison Vincent Napolitano, Municipal Council Vice President Luis Quintana, Council Member-at-Large Carlos M. Gonzalez, North Ward Council Member Anibal Ramos, and Public Safety Director Anthony Campos. Police Detective Hubert Henderson served as Master of Ceremonies.

“It is with deep honor that I recognize Memorial Day here in the City of Newark. From the very inception of our Nation, Newark residents have bravely fought and died to advance our Country and protect our borders. Today we enjoy an abundant America, a Nation rich with opportunity and hope because of the commitment of countless men and women. We must not only recognize Memorial Day and remember their solemn sacrifice, but we must also dedicate ourselves, through our actions, to do what we can to continue the growth and prosperity of our Country, towards the fulfillment of its ideals of liberty and justice,” Mayor Booker said.

“Outside my office in Washington, I started a memorial to honor the men and women we have lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. This memorial is visited daily by New Jerseyans and Americans from across the country. They search the names and faces of the thousands of service members who are on permanent display there. As they search, some write in a book of reflections. One resident wrote: ‘May we ever be so humbled by the grace of these men and women.’ Another New Jerseyan wrote ‘Freedom isn’t free and we must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.’ And another wrote: ‘Our son was killed in Afghanistan…It means the world to us that our son is not forgotten.’ On this Memorial Day, we remember the courageous service members who sacrificed so much for our great country,” said Senator Lautenberg. He noted that he had worked in the Senate to support and honor veterans by establishing a modernized GI Bill of Rights that expands the benefits available to veterans.

“Memorial Day is one of the most important days on our calendar because we honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. This remembrance should extend for longer than one day. We can honor the fallen everyday by caring for their comrades who have returned and for their families who will forever mourn,” said G.I. Go Fund Executive Director Fanous. The G.I. Go Fund received a state Senate resolution from State Senator Teresa Ruiz.

Council Vice President Luis A. Quintana recalled growing up and reading about the feats of the legendary 65th Infantry Regiment, the “Borinqueneers” of Puerto Rico, who earned a tremendous reputation in the Korean War. “General Douglas MacArthur said of them, ‘They did not know the English language, but they knew that freedom was important and they stood for what freedom is about.’” Council Member Gonzalez’s brother served in the regiment, and was wounded in Korea.

Director McCarthy talked about his father James J. McCarthy’s service as a Marine in World War II. James McCarthy fought at Guadalcanal alongside the legendary Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, and was present at the October 1942 action that earned Sgt. Basilone his Medal of Honor. Mr. McCarthy also fought in New Guinea, Cape Gloucester, and Iwo Jima, this time in the 2nd Battalion of the 28th Marine Regiment. They led the assault on Mt. Suribachi that resulted in the flag-raising atop the pinnacle, which was recorded for posterity by Joe Rosenthal’s unforgettable photograph.

During his remarks, Director McCarthy displayed his “most prized possession,” a map of Mt. Suribachi that his father carried up the summit, that 65 years later, still bears the holes and marks created by a Japanese bullet. In his remarks, Director McCarthy recalled the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, and compared how Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the 9/11 attacks both united different generations of American people to face foreign attack.

He also discussed a meeting he and other New York Police leaders had soon after that attack with Lt. Gen. Tommy Franks, who led American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. “General Franks told us, ‘We fight away games, while you police officers fight home games.’ The reverence I hold for our armed forces is the same that I hold for police officers,” Director McCarthy said. “The armed forces fight foreign terrorism, while police officers fight crime, which is a form of domestic terrorism. We cannot save the world without saving ourselves. Let’s do what’s right.”

Chief Lalor recalled his service in Vietnam, which took the lives of childhood friends and left him wounded. “I can still remember, very clearly, the night my unit was hit. Lying wounded, unable to even crawl, I heard the anguished cries of my friends around me, calling for their mothers. I heard the screams of pain and fright and shock,” he said. “And then I heard the silence. That was the worst of all. That sickening silence remains with me to remind me that we need to remember, we need to respect, we need to appreciate all those brave men and women, in all wars, that give the ultimate sacrifice, so that we may still speak out, that we may still follow our own religious beliefs, that we may do what we can and go where we will…all because of our American war dead.”

Singled out for a Mayoral Proclamation and Council Resolution was North Ward native Dario H. Marchena, Jr., a retired Newark Police Officer and lieutenant in the New Jersey Army National Guard, who served in Afghanistan. Lt. Marchena served in the Newark Police Department from 1998 to 2009, and in the New Jersey Army National Guard from 1997 to the present. In 2006, while deployed to Afghanistan, he earned the Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor for evacuating three wounded Canadian soldiers under enemy fire, saving their lives. He then led the Police Support Team to the Afghan National Security Forces, which defined the tactics and techniques for the nation’s entire police forces. For these works, he earned the Meritorious Service Medal. Lt. Marchena also is Purple Heart recipient.

During the ceremony, Lt. Marchena delivered remarks and noted that Memorial Day was first observed at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried there, and the tradition of wearing red poppies of Memorial Day, which dates back to 1915. He read a poem by Moina Michael, who founded America’s Poppy effort, which reads, “We cherish too, the Poppy red; that grows on fields where valor led; it seems to signal to the skies; that blood of heroes never dies.

“What is fascinating is the fact that the poem not only transcends through time and military service but, it is truly inclusive of all the American heroes in our Union and territories; from the attacks of Pearl Harbor to those of September 11, 2001, here in the homeland; we must also remember the fallen police officers, firefighters, and first responders who have also made the ultimate sacrifice for our way of life.”

After the speeches, Newark Firefighter Ray Montalvo played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes and Newark Police Detective L. Sanders played “Taps” while JROTC cadets from Shabazz High School lowered the Stars and Stripes to half-staff. Members of the American Legion Guyton-Callahan Post 152, based in Newark, laid a memorial wreath.

“It’s great that the City took time to recognize the veterans and make them feel welcome and appreciated,” said Shabazz 12th-grader Sergio Hargrove, who commands the school’s ROTC detachment. “I took courage from the speeches today. Anyone can make a difference, especially a lot of people who have come from this City. It makes me want to push myself for my unit and my country.”

Bill Moore, a member of the Guyton-Callahan Post’s Executive Board, talked about the impact of the ceremony on the youth. “They will learn about the sacrifices that previous generations have made for our freedom today,” he said. “I’m glad that the City has restored this program after 40 years.”

The post, located at 212 Elizabeth Avenue, will also observe Memorial Day tomorrow, May 29, by uniting with local Boy Scout troops to place American flags on the graves of service members buried in Fairmount Cemetery on Central Avenue, in Newark’s West Ward. More than 2,500 former service members are buried in the historic cemetery, going as far back as the Civil War. The flag-placing will begin at 9 a.m. For more information on this and other Guyton-Callahan programs, contact the post at (973) 622-9580.

The post’s name honors two African-American Newark residents who were among the first to fight and perish in two of America’s wars. Emmett Guyton was an early American casualty of World War I, and Archie Callahan, who grew up on Berkeley Avenue, was killed on the battleship USS Oklahoma when it was torpedoed and capsized at Pearl Harbor.

Following the ceremony, the City of Newark unveiled a new photo exhibit, “Honoring Newark Veterans Past and Present” in the City Hall Basement Rotunda. The exhibit honoring residents who have served in the Armed Forces will remain on display through the end of the month of July. In addition, Vitas Innovative Hospice Care volunteers and staff were also present to educate the community about Veterans’ benefits and the partnership between the Hospice and the Veterans Administration. Vitas Innovative Hospice Care donated event refreshments and the memorial wreath.

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. Last year, 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.

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. Since Operation Enduring Freedom began on October 10, 2001, some 1,066 American service members have been killed, and 5,917 wounded in Afghanistan. Since Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 19, 2003, some 4,388 American service members have died, and 31,822 have been wounded.

The G.I. 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 G.I. 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.