For many years, the town of Guttenberg has observed Veterans Day with a somber ceremony at the town’s monument on Boulevard East.
The tiny town had lost 41 residents during World War II, not to mention a handful of others in other wars.
But this year, the members of the Guttenberg Memorial Day Parade committee wanted to do something a little different, after getting an idea from the town of Bloomfield.
Larry Giancola, the chairman of Guttenberg’s parade committee, was recently visiting Bloomfield and noticed that many of that town’s streets were named after members of the military who were killed in action serving in foreign wars, namely World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
“After seeing those signs, I figured it was a good thing to do here as well,” Giancola said.
So the members of the Memorial Day Parade Committee got together and decided to see if they could do the same thing in Guttenberg.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna said. “All too often, the veterans who we lost during wars tend to get forgotten. We wanted to make sure that they aren’t forgotten here in Guttenberg.”
So as a way to remember Veterans Day this year, the parade committee decided to erect four street signs to honor the fallen veterans – near where they grew up as youngsters in Guttenberg.
The committee decided to put all 45 Guttenberg armed forces members killed in action into a hat and pulled out four names to honor with street signs for this year’s Veterans Day ceremonies.
“It was the only fair way of doing it,” said Jim Hannan, a member of the Memorial Day Parade committee and a veteran of the Korean War, serving as an Air Force firefighter from 1952 through 1953. “We took a little time to put it all together.”
Once the four names were selected, the parade committee paid to have the signs made. The Guttenberg Department of Public Works then erected the signs on top of existing street signs for now.
The four honorees are:
· The late Robert M. Casey, who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1969. He was a Navy Cross recipient as a medic and his name now appears at 69th Street and Broadway, near where he grew up.
· The late William Buhl, who was killed in World War I in 1918. The committee has experienced difficulty in finding any other pertinent information about Buhl, other that he served in the U.S. Army. His sign is located at 68th Street and Polk Street.
· The late Joseph Savarese, who was killed during the Korean War. Savarese served the U.S. Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He returned home to Guttenberg, re-enlisted to serve in the Korean War seven years later and was one of the first American soldiers lost in the Korean War. His sign is situated at 71st Street and Broadway.
· The late John Rzempoluch, who was killed in the Battle of Kula Gulf in 1943 as a member of the U.S. Navy. Rzempoluch was on the USS Cruiser Helena and survived Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, but was lost at sea two years later. His sign is located at 68th Street and Park Avenue.
After having the annual ceremony at the town’s memorial, a group of approximately 100 people, including several members of the soldiers’ and sailors’ families, went to each location for a special presentation dedicating the street signs. Poems were read at the sites by members of the family.
“The turnout was unbelievable,” Hannan said. “We usually don’t get turnouts like that anymore. But it was really nice that the family members were all there. It was a wonderful day.”
“I was surprised we had so many people attend,” Delle Donna said. “The parade committee did a great job in remembering these great men. A lot of the holidays like this do get lost.”
Giancola praised Hannan for being the driving force in the project.
“He just took the ball and ran with it,” Giancola said. “He raised the money and bought the signs. It’s such a good feeling to see that these men who died in war are not forgotten. They may be forgotten in other places, but not here in Guttenberg.”
Councilman Gerald Drasheff spoke at the some of the dedications.
“It’s a tremendous way for us to remember those who served in the past,” Drasheff said. “We appreciate the sacrifices these people made and we’re able to salute them.”
Hannan said the signs were temporarily placed on top of existing street signs, but will eventually be placed on permanent free-standing poles of their own at the respective locations.
“We hope to be able to do this every year,” Hannan said. “When we have people who turn out like this, you can see that people here still care and haven’t forgotten.”