Mantua hosted its Memorial Day ceremony on May 29 in front of the municipal building, where dozens gathered to pay their respects to those who sacrificed their lives in America’s wars.
“On this day, we pay tribute to those heroes who have given everything to protect our way of life,” said Gloucester County Commissioner Denice DiCarlo. “Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. A time for us to stand, pause and reflect upon that courage, that selflessness, that dedication, and a reminder that those that laid down their lives in defense of the values that we, as Americans, hold dear.”
The ceremony began at 10:30 a.m. when a parade that started in Wenonah – which shared its ceremony with Mantua – led to a small memorial honoring residents of the latter who died in both world wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Present were Mantua police officers, firefighters and a color guard made up of veterans from the township’s VFW Post 7679. There were also veterans from American Legion posts 305 and 192, along with veterans of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Neighborhood kids arrived on bicycles decked out in red, white and blue and participated in a bike decorating contest.
“We try to encourage these young folks to be a part of our parade,” said Joe Heitman, chairman of the Mantua Township Veterans Commission. “We try to draw them out to teach them what Memorial Day is by being here and listening to these speakers talk about the real meaning of what is happening here today.”
Clearview Regional High School’s marching band was also on hand to provide renditions of the national anthem, America the Beautiful and Taps.
DiCarlo was one of two guest speakers for the event; the other was Air Force veteran Taylor Montgomery, who likened military soldiers and veterans to comic book superheroes like Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel.
“It’s those same qualities of our beloved superheroes that exist within everyone we remember today,” he noted.
Mayor Robert Zimmerman also presented a plaque to the family of James Thornton, a World War II Army veteran and a Mantua resident since 1966.
“James Thorton is remembered as a kind, caring and courageous man who loved his family and country,” Zimmerman noted. “His wonderful sense of humor brought joy to all that knew him, and his legacy will be remembered for generations to come.”
The Memorial Day event closed with a rifle squad from members of Mantua’s VFW and American Legion posts as a sendoff to fallen comrades and a closing benediction from Bob Dunn, a VFW chaplain who gave an invocation.