Former Vietnam War Commander Barry Weiss served as master of ceremonies last week at what marked the 40th Veterans Day celebration he has organized. He was joined by town officials, fresh-out-of-cadetship soldiers, veterans, and their families outside of the West New York Veterans Memorial that had been built in 1922 on Blvd. East to honor those who served and lost their lives in World War I.
The mood was solemn, but proud as attendees celebrated the sacrifices made in the many years since. Rev. John Sharpe of the Trinity Reformed Church opened the ceremony with a prayer and said, “We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe — especially for the young men and women in the thousands who are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with injured bodies and traumatized spirits.”
“We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded in body and soul.” –Rev. John Sharpe
Mayor and U.S. Army Colonel Felix Roque, whose years of service total 35, was moved to the verge of tears as he addressed the audience.
“It’s not easy, a day like this for me,” he said, “because I have been there and done that. It’s not easy going to a family offering them a flag of the United States and thanking them for their service after they’ve passed away.”
He went on to acknowledge those in attendance who’d served as he had, such as Superintendent and U.S. Marine Corps Captain John Fauta.
As a Cuban-born immigrant, Roque said, he has a special appreciation for the freedom Americans enjoy, and for those who have fought to maintain it.
He addressed the veterans and their families, saying, “As the new mayor, I’ll always be there for you. I will make sure you have priority in jobs, housing, and education.”
Police Chief Michael Indri was chosen as an Honored Speaker for his six years served in the U.S. Navy, four of which he spent on the U.S.S. Independence. He mentioned how his Navy service segued easily into his role on the police force. “For the police, the war never stops,” he said.
He continued, “When Mayor Roque and the commissioners chose me to lead the Police Department, it was one of the proudest times of my career. But one of the proudest times of my life was the six years that I spent in the United States Navy.”
The event concluded with a prayer from Pastor Tania Fuentes of the Love of Jesus Family Church and the ceremonial march of the Memorial High School marching band.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org