Veterans Day marked with ceremonies, tributes

Community rallies to show appreciation for local heroes

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  • Glenn Wenzel, of the American Legion Post 289, acts a master of ceremonies at the Veterans Day gathering in front of town hall Saturday. photo by nicole colella

  • World War II Army veterans Philip Lilgeberg, left, and Raymond Butkewicz, share memories at The Chelsea at Bald Eagle Saturday. photo by Don Webb

  • Mary Durant's Roxy gets into the spirit of things during Veterans Day ceremonies at town hall. Photo by nicole colella

  • Veterans swap service stories after the ceremony at hotn hall. photo by don webb

  • Ken Hensley, Americanism co-chairman of the Elks Lodge on Union Valley Road, decorated the lodge's exterior with dozens of flags for Veterans Day. photo provided

  • Members of the American Legion thank veterans at The Chelsea at Bald Eagle, a senior assisted living facility. photo by don webb

Organizations, individuals and businesses marked Veterans’ Day in West Milford Saturday with ceremonies, tributes, and in many other ways.

The folks at the Sit n' Chat diner in Hewitt treated veterans to free meals and the Elks Lodge, after hanging out a huge flag display, gave local heroes free beverages. Chain eateries such as Dunkin' Donuts gave away goodies as well.

Representatives of the VFW and American Legion, and Mayor Bettina Bieri conducted a ceremony at Veterans’ Park in front of town hall. An Assisted Living home, Chelsea at Bald Eagle, honored its 16 veterans with a ceremony in its activities room. Diane Keesser, lifestyle director, arranged for Passaic County American Legion Commander Ed Murphy to speak.

“it’s truly a honor to thank all our veterans in this manner,” Murphy said.

Some folks might not know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

The latter is a federal holiday in May for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces, and also all veterans who died the previous year.

Veterans Day celebrates all who served, regardless of whether they were in combat, said Glenn Wenzel of American Legion Post 289, who was master of ceremonies at the event held in front of town hall.

"It's honoring those who have served. Period. When you sign up, you commit yourself to the ultimate, if called on," he said.

Bill Johnson, commander of VFW Post 7198, noted that Memorial Day "is strictly for those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

"It's supposed to be a sad day of prayer and remembrance. Unfortunately, it's turned into the first day of summer and parties and shopping and parades."

Johnson said you might see a thousand people attending a Memorial Day parade. "We'd like to see thousand people at any event celebrating veterans," he added.

Rev. Patricia Wenzel said prayers at the beginning and end of the 15-minute ceremony at town hall.

She read from scripture, quoting John 15:13: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Telling of the commitment veterans have made to their country, Bieri thanked those gathered for "joining us today to observe Veterans Day and to honor our veterans, thank them for their service, and show our respect for their dedication to our great nation."

"Few can deny the feeling of respect, admiration, and thankfulness that overwhelms us as the national anthem echoes notes of freedom. But it is our veterans that protected those freedoms; they are our foundation and true symbols of American nationalism.

Although words cannot express our appreciation, please join me in saying thank you to all of our veterans and treat them with the honor and respect they deserve, today and every day."

Bieri also read a poem by Joanna Fuchs, which ended with "We salute every one of them,/ The noble and the brave,/The ones still with us here today,/And those who rest in a grave.

So here's to our country's heroes;/ They're a cut above the rest;/Let's give the honor that is due/To our country's very best."

The exterior of the West Milford Elks Lodge 2236 on Union Valley Road, was decked out with dozens of American flags for Veterans Day. The flags were put up by Navy veteran and Elks Americanism co-chairman Ken Hensley.

The Elks, the organization said in a statement, "cares greatly for all veterans and this is just one method of paying tribute to all who have served."

The lodge has a program where anyone can sponsor a flag in honor of a veteran.

For more information, call 973-728-2236 or check out the lodge's website and locate "sponsor flag" at

Chelsea resident Philip Lilgeberg, 95, an Army vet who served during WWII, told the West Milford Messenger: “We all had our special jobs to do, and we all did them well."

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