Mayor’s Column: a message for Memorial Day

This week’s mayor’s column includes a special message for Memorial Day

“We live in a world that has walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. We use words like honor, code, loyalty…. We use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. My existence saves lives. You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t like to talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall!”

Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) — “A Few Good Men”

On Memorial Day, we honor those brave heroes who stood on the “Wall of Freedom” and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The first Memorial Day dates back to the Civil War era when a group of Southern women decorated graves of soldiers from both the Confederate and Union Armies who died in battle. The first national memorial observance was in May 1868. In 1873, New York was the first state to legalize the holiday and by 1890, all of the Northern states celebrated Memorial Day on May 30. In 1971, the observance date was changed to the last Monday in May.

In World War I, 116,516 troops died for our country and 405,399 gave their lives in World War II. The Korean War took 33,686 heroes and in Vietnam, 50,209 paid the ultimate price. The number of American troops who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan totals almost 7,000.

One of the more compelling tributes to our fallen troops is the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. In 1988, I made my first visit to “The Wall” and it was quite an emotional experience. Some visitors knelt in prayer, some left tokens of remembrance while others sketched the names of their loved ones onto a piece of paper.

The names on “The Wall” are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date, and within each date the names are alphabetized. There are three sets of fathers and sons honored and 31 sets of brothers. Almost 4,000 on the Memorial were just 22 or younger and 8,283 were only 19 years old. The largest age group taken was 18 years old and numbered 33,103. Twelve troops were only 17, 5 were only 16 and one soldier was only 15.

On their first day in Vietnam, 997 troops lost their lives while 1,448 were killed on their last day of service there.

For many, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. For others, it is a day for barbecues, picnics and parades. For all of us, it should be a day to honor those Americans who gave their lives for our country.

Honor our fallen heroes by enjoying the barbecues, parades and picnics. Honor them by embracing your family. Honor them by cherishing your freedom. They would have wanted it that way.

**The Annual Kirkwood Memorial Day Parade will begin at 11 a.m. at the Carriage House Restaurant and end at the war memorial on Burnt Mill Road adjacent to the Kirkwood Fire Station. There will be a memorial ceremony at 11:30 a.m. with refreshments following. Special thanks to Terri and Vaughn Vandegrift for their help in organizing and sponsoring this unofficial start of summer in our community. Join us in honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

**The 5th Annual “Right in Our Own Backyard” addiction awareness program will be held on Tuesday, June13, at 6 p.m. at the Mansion. Tickets are $50 and include 2 drink tickets, buffet and DJ entertainment. Since its inception, the program has provided the necessary information about the opiate/heroin epidemic which affects people in all walks of life. Tragically, the number of overdose deaths in New Jersey is more than triple the national rate and there are now more overdose deaths than from homicide, suicide, car accidents or AIDS. All proceeds go to the Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey (JFCS) for the “Right in Our Own Backyard” program. The program was started in memory of Justin M. Wolfe.

**The Voorhees Police Department will hold their 4th Annual Junior Police Academy from July 17 through July 21. The program teaches our young people from the ages of 12 to 17 to appreciate and respect the duties and life of a police officer. Interested parents and applicants can contact Lt. William Walsh (856) 882–1107 wwalsh@vtpd.com. Applications and forms for the Junior Police Academy can be found at vtpd.com/JPA. Applications must be submitted by June 30 to be considered.