On the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and 23rd Street stands the statue of a solider, painted all in white.
Located on the property of Robinson School, this is one of the more than a dozen monuments to Americans who fought and sometimes died in conflicts around the world.
Underneath this statue is a plaque that bears the names of those Bayonne residents who perished in World War II.
But beneath this is yet another plaque bearing one name – Patrick P. Castaldo, who was born on Oct. 3, 1924 and died on July 30, 1945.
The date of death seems remarkably tragic, partly because Castaldo died slightly more than two weeks before Japan’s surrender, officially ending the war.
Castaldo had been a gunner’s mate second-class and was listed missing in action after his ship, the U.S.S. Indianapolis, sank.
Not said on the plaque, however, are the details of the ship’s mission and how his ship was hit by torpedoes just after it was returning from delivering the atom bombs that helped end the war.
The sinking of the ship was made most famous by a story conveyed in Steven Spielberg’s film “Jaws,” and it is likely Spielberg even passed the statue on his way to filming “War of the Worlds” here in Bayonne in 2005.
Nobody actually knows just how many Bayonne men and women have served in the armed forces over the years, although the more than a dozen veterans’ groups that currently operate in the city are testimony to the massive number since World War I and most likely prior to that, as well.
Bayonne still has veterans who have served in nearly all theaters of WWII, the Korean Conflict, the war in Vietnam, Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a variety of smaller conflicts over the last 75 years.
Bayonne has monuments to fallen heroes from nearly every war, including one called “The Hiker” to commemorate the American infantrymen who fought during the Spanish American War in 1898.
Bayonne has also played a key role in supporting war efforts, including the construction of a patrol torpedo boat, PT109, on which former President John F. Kennedy sailed during WWII.
Of the 464 World War II veterans who won the Congressional Metal of Honor, two – Stephen R. Gregg and Nicholas Oresko – were from Bayonne.
In Dennis Collins Park, a monument stands to the 30 vets who gave their lives in Vietnam, making it the highest percentage of soldiers killed of any town in the nation.
The park also has a monument to those who fought in the Korean Conflict. Yet, a recently installed monument at the former Military Ocean Terminal gives testimony to the contingent of U.S. Marines that shipped out of there for Korea, many of whom fought at the Chosen Reservoir, one of the harshest conflicts of the campaign.
Veterans’ Day was first celebrated on Nov. 11, 1921, when an unknown soldier’s remains were interned at Arlington National Cemetery, at a site overlooking the Potomac River. Although originally named Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 designating Nov. 11 as Veterans’ Day, this with the intent of honoring not only World War I veterans, but all veterans who fought for America.
Korean vets honored
In keeping with tradition, Bayonne veterans will hold several events to honor this year’s veterans.
In keeping with the mandates of the Marine Corps manual directing its members to commemorate the foundation of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Bayonne Detachment of the Marine Corps League will celebrate the 233rd anniversary with a special program, to be held on Monday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. in front of the Marine Corps monument at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor.
Commander Louise Giovanni, who received a Purple Heart for wounds received in conflict, will lay a wreath at the foot of the monument.
Former Freeholder Barry Dugan, a Marine Corps veteran, will read the Commandants message.
“Taps” will be rendered by Commander Patrick Wiley of the Polish Legion of American Veterans Post. A traditional Marine Corps birthday cake cutting will follow the ceremony. John Sinnicki, also a Marine Corps vet, will read the closing prayer.
Last August, Sinnicki, formerly of Bayonne, was sworn in as the national second vice commander for the Polish Legion of American Veterans. He previously held the title of New Jersey state commander for three years. He was also the national legislative officer for four years, and is currently a member of Post 91 in Linden, N.J.
Veterans Day events
A flag raising on Tuesday, Nov. 11, will be held at 11 a.m. in front of City Hall in Bayonne, with an official ceremony slated at the Dorothy E. Harrington City Council Chambers at 7 p.m.
This year, Mackenzie Post will serve as the lead post for the ceremony. Traditionally, the post that leads the Veterans’ Day ceremonies is charged with the lead role in the following Memorial Day events.
This year, the post welcomes a new commander, James Devaney, and pays tribute to outgoing commander Isabella DeMarco, who, along with Victoria Delregno, will serve as co-grand marshals at the 2009 Memorial Day ceremonies. The theme for this year will be “Women in the Military.”
The Veterans Day ceremony will feature guest speaker, former Mayor Richard Rutkowski, and will have opening prayers by Father Gerard Perez of Trinity Episcopal Church. The event will feature the traditional color guards from posts around Bayonne.
National Guard family members honored
On Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a Family Readiness Group will hold a special early Thanksgiving dinner for family members of military people serving in Iraq.
This group supports Company C of the New Jersey National Guard deployed out of Jersey City.
The Family Readiness Group (FRG) is an officially command-sponsored organization of family members, volunteers, and soldiers belonging to a unit that provides an avenue of mutual support and assistance and a network of communications among the family members, the chain of command, and community resources.
Joseph Tagliareni and Will Lawson of UNICO volunteered to co-sponsor the Thanksgiving celebration. The Chandelier Restaurant of Bayonne will cater the dinner.
Bayonne Community Bank President Donald Mindiak, along with 20 BCB Bank employee volunteers, will be assisting at the Family Readiness Group Thanksgiving celebration.