Honoring America’s veterans

Photo by Ron Leir American Legion Frobisher Post Commander Keith McMillan (l.) and the Kearny Police Department Honor Guard in formation at Kearny Veterans Day ceremonies.
Photo by Ron Leir
American Legion Frobisher Post Commander Keith McMillan (l.) and the Kearny Police Department Honor Guard in formation at Kearny Veterans Day ceremonies.


Timothy Kelly is only 42 but he has spent nearly half his life in military service.

Born and bred in Kearny, Kelly attended local schools, went to University of Southern California and while on the West Coast, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Having risen to the rank of major, he has survived no less than three combat tours in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Division.

Last Wednesday, Kelly had the day off from his current assignment at Fort Dix in New Jersey because it was Veterans’ Day so he returned to his hometown to join his loved ones for the town’s annual observance at Veteran’s Memorial Park, Kearny Ave. and Beech St.

There, members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Marine Corps, the Kearny Police Honor Guard, elected officials and residents paid tribute to servicemen and women, living and dead, who have served their country in the U.S. Armed Forces.

A bit of history: President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11, 1919, the first “Armistice Day” to commemorate the end of hostilities for WWI, at the 11th honor of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 but Congress did not designate the day a national holiday until 1938. In 1947, the commemoration was expanded to include all U.S. military servicemen and women and in 1954, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day.

A miniature cannon provided by the Kearny Legion’s “Forty & Eight” unit was fired at 11 a.m. The Forty & Eight, formed in 1920 by the then-newly organized American Legion, was named for the French railway boxcars that carried up to 40 men and eight horses to the front in WWI. Through the years, the organization has fund-raised for a host of charitable causes.

At the Kearny ceremonies, longtime Kearny Legion member, Korean War Army veteran Robert Hinkley, a past commander of Kearny American Legion Frobisher Post 99, past Legion Hudson County commander, past N.J. Department Legion vice commander and past Department executive committee member, was honored for more than 31 years of service to the Legion.

Mayor Alberto Santos read a list of the Kearny WWI dead: Arthur McEntevy, killed in action at Gallipoli, 1915; Hugh Fleming, died of wounds, 1917; Edward W. McWhirter, killed in action, 1918; Casswell Gross, died of wounds, 1918; James Corbett, killed in action in Cambri, France, 1918; and Arthur Perring Heward, died of influenza pneumonia, 1918.

Santos noted that America did not enter WWI until April 2017 – 19 months before the armistice – but, “in that short time span, 110,000 American soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice – many killed in action, many died from wounds and over 40,000 died from the influenza pandemic.”

When Kearny’s WWI monument was dedicated in 1922, Santos said, “The Observer reported that 25,000 persons ‘thronged the line of march’ which included many Army, Navy and Air groups but most significantly, Gen. John J. Pershing who had led the American forces to victory over Germany.”

In his remarks that day, Pershing paid tribute to the U.S. casualties of the war, saying:

“They went across in the full bloom of youth and fought and died; they gave their all that you might live in a state of liberty …. Were another great crisis to arise, we would again find the men of the country responding to the call to defense because we love our country and we love our flag …. It is fitting that this beautiful monument should find a place in the center of your town where it may be viewed by the children who, on this spot, will learn their first lesson in patriotism.”

Kearny has since added memorials in the park to those of its residents who perished in subsequent wars: WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the War on Terror. “We will always affirm our commitment to our veterans,” Santos said.

For Maj. Timothy Kelly, the day was an opportunity to “think about friends I lost and people deployed there now.”

Since its founding three years ago, the Frobisher post’s VOICE (Veterans Outreach Information Community & Education) program, and outreach coordinator Bill Sweeney, has aided 153 veterans – active and retired – with referrals for a wide range of services including counseling, job training and employment, health benefits and service-related disability claims. VOICE operates from the Frobisher post on Belgrove Drive Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

“We’ve had close to a 90% success rate in getting claim denials overturned,” Sweeney said. “And, right now, we’re working with a Vietnam vet who lives in Jersey City but has a Kearny connection deal with an eviction notice.”

Surprisingly, Sweeney said, area veterans are getting good cooperation from the V.A. hospitals in our region in scheduling medical visits. “They’re making good strides in honoring response time,” he said.

But post Commander Keith McMillan said that perhaps the biggest challenge faced by veterans returning home from active duty or deployment is finding work as a civilian.

“For reintegrating back into society, a job is the foundation for starting your life,” McMillan said. “I would say that the employment situation is No. 1 on everybody’s chart.”

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