Last Friday morning — at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — Nutley residents filled Vincent United Methodist Church on Vincent Place for the township’s annual Veterans Day observance.
It was to have been held at the war memorial in the park in front of the library, but especially blustery weather forced the ceremony inside.
Indeed, the pristine church with its glorious stained-glass window behind the altar added a special solemnity to the program. And solemnity was appropriate.
Granted, unlike Memorial Day, which commemorates those who died in the military service of our country, Veterans Day honors both the living and the dead, the past and present members of the Armed Forces.
Still, some of us – including your correspondent – will forever link it to its origins as Armistice Day. It was at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, that the guns on the Western Front finally fell silent after more than four long years of unimaginable slaughter in World War I. The War to End All Wars. (We all know how that worked out.)
Still, the holiday today involves more than mourning. It is also a celebration of all those men and women who answered the nation’s call, donned an American uniform and served with honor, in war and peace.
On Friday, veterans attending the observance were asked to stand when their service branch was called and they were met with the applause of a thankful audience.
Among the speakers at the program was Jack Kane, commander of Nutley VFW Post 493, 2014-2015 state VFW commander and current membership director for VFW NJ. He noted that the day honors “all who served, regardless of when or where” and reminded us that there currently are nearly 22 million living veterans.
“Every generation owes a debt of gratitude to those who served, for they have established a standard of courage and honor for the whole world,” Kane said.
Friday’s event — organized by the Nutley Veterans Council — paid tribute to several former Nutley Veterans of the Year: Daniel Marese (2013), Kane (2014) and Commissioner Steven Rogers (2015). It also marked the awarding of the town’s first Military Civilian Appreciation Award, to local businessman Frank Turano Jr.
There was another milestone in 2016: Alice Lynch became the first woman to receive the Veteran of the Year honor. (In May, she was also the first woman grand marshal of the local Memorial Day Parade.)
Lynch, elegant and lovely at age 98, was a Navy Flight Corps Nurse during World War II, serving, among other places, in Guam, where she treated the casualties from the fighting in the South Pacific and the Philippines. When the war ended, she had attained the rank of lieutenant.
Returning home to New Jersey, she married Marine Corps war vet William Lynch and the couple moved to Nutley, where they raised three sons — William, John and Robert.
Mr. Lynch passed away in 2007 at age 88, but Alice continues to make Nutley her home (and Nutley continues to be grateful for that).
In ending this, we share one more quote from Kane’s speech: “From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, from Bastogne to Baghdad, from Pork Chop Hill to the Persian Gulf, our veterans have borne the cost of America’s wars and continue to stand watch over America’s peace.”
Please remember that. And never forget.