By Karen Zautyk
Last Friday afternoon, a simple but moving ceremony was held at the World War II monument in Town Hall Park.
Members of veterans groups from Nutley and Belleville gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, to honor the troops who took part in the invasion, and, in a gesture of continuing brotherhood, to thank their counterparts across the Atlantic.
On June 6, 1944, as some 57,000 American soldiers were storming Omaha and Utah Beaches and the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, more than 54,000 of their British counterparts were braving the German guns at Gold and Sword Beaches. (The Allies also sent a combined total of 23,000+ airborne forces into the enemy-held territory inland, and 21,000 Canadians landed at Juno Beach.)
Nutley’s D-Day ceremony acknowledged the debt of honor the Allies owe each other, and in England, in the town of Ripon in North Yorkshire, a similar memorial was held by members of the Royal British Legion. Each of the events was videotaped, the footage will be exchanged, and soon both should be available for viewing on YouTube.
As explained on its website, www.britishlegion.org.uk, the organization, founded in 1921, provides “care and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families.” The Legion is also Britain’s “custodian of Remembrance.”
Around Memorial Day, Nutley Public Affairs Commissioner Steven Rogers appeared on Fox News to discuss the work of the town’s very active Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The segment was aired in Britain, and the Royal British Legion reached out to Rogers regarding the mutual concern for vets.
And thus, the two D-Day ceremonies were organized.
“This will be the beginning of a partnership that’s going to grow,” Rogers told The Observer, noting that specific plans will be announced over the next few months.
On Friday, representatives of the Nutley American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Amvets, the Belleville/Nutley chapter of Disabled American Veterans, members of the Nutley High School Patriot Club, and Board of Education President Charles Kucinski were among those in attendance.
Both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes were planted at the foot of the World War II monument on which are inscribed the names of Nutley soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in that war. Read aloud were the names of the 35 Nutley men who took part in the Normandy invasion.
Also read, a statement from Albert Weidemann of the Ripon chapter of the British Legion, who said:
“Your initiative of a veterans exchange program is without a doubt one which can only strengthen and develop our respective bonds as comrades with a great deal still to be learnt from one another, and I support it wholeheartedly.
“As veterans, as family members and the Armed Forces come together from countries around the world to pay their respects and to honor their fallen, we remember our strong bond and the sacrifices made by Britain and the United States of America and are proud to link up with the Township of Nutley, N.J., today through Commissioner Steven Rogers in observing the tradition of Remembrance on this, the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.
“May God bless us all.”
Rogers addressed the gathering, noting:
“The United States of America and Great Britain have always stood side-by-side in times of war and peace.
Today, on this peaceful day of June 6, 2014, we once again stand side-by- side with our British friends in honoring the sacrifices of American and British forces at Normandy on June 6, 1944.
“We the people of the Township of Nutley, United States of America, salute the people of Great Britain and the Royal British Legion.
“God bless Great Britain and the United States of America.”
And as a bugler played “Taps” and the notes echoed across the park, we thought of a poem, “For The Fallen,” quoted at services in Britain every Nov. 11 (our Veterans Day, their Remembrance Day). Written in 1914 by Laurence Binyon, it says:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”