Alan Van Saun is proud to co-direct Moorestown’s annual Memorial Day ceremony for the place he calls home.
“Moorestown is a fantastic community, and it’s a deeply patriotic community,” he said. “You may not realize it, but there are veterans in all corners of the community.”
This year’s event featured the high-school band, Posting of the Colors by Boy Scout Troop 44 and a military salute by William H. Snyder Post 42 American Legion led by Cmdr. Gene Clark.
Mayor Nicole Gillespie – a veteran and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy – gave opening remarks, and Judith Young of American Gold Star Mothers read the names of late soldiers on the monument at Memorial Field, where a group of Girl Scouts laid flowers.
“The Scouts are invested in this, parks and rec is invested in this, Hess Farms, who donates the flowers … All these different groups just genuinely love doing it,” Van Saun noted of the Memorial Day ceremony. “You don’t ever feel like you’re asking for anything when you do it.”
“Being a part of that just makes me feel so good about being a citizen of Moorestown and being part of such a great community.”
The ceremony has taken place for more than 35 years under the direction of Young, who took over planning with Jean Gash in 1986. Young became a Gold Star mother in 1983, when her son, Sgt. Jeffrey Young, was killed in the 1983 terrorist attack on a Marine barracks in Lebanon.
Two years ago, she passed her responsibilities on to Van Saun and his wife Brooke, after they connected with Young through the parks and rec department. Van Saun is grateful to see people in the community volunteer and help with the event, specifically parks and rec.
“They get the tents set up and make sure that the grass is cut and the flowerbeds look good around the monument, and that everything is in good shape,” he pointed out. “So that we can just show up and execute the plan.”
This year’s guest speaker at the ceremony was Cmdr. Craig Reiner, a retired Navy veteran who served as an aviator flying the F/A-18C Hornet. He has accumulated more than 2,500 flight hours and his personal awards include two Meritorious Service Medals and four Air Medals.
Reiner spoke about the friends he lost along the way and his speech brought back memories for Van Saun, also a veteran.
“Although I’ve never been a pilot, I could easily relate to the things he was talking about,” Van Saun explained, “the camaraderie, the friendships, the shared hardships that you experience with your comrades in arms. And that definitely resonated with me on a personal level.”
Veterans interested in riding on the parade float that honors them can arrive at the corner of Chester and Central avenues on the day of the event between 10 and 11 a.m.
“I hope that by attending these events, people leave with a great appreciation for how great of a town Moorestown is,” Van Saun observed. “And it’s great because of the people that live here.”