Longtime Bayonne residents would best remember Robert P. Fackina Jr. for a float he took part in at the annual Memorial Day Parades in the 1960s, where for several years he and other sons and nephews of Marine Corps League members were part of a depiction the famous statue of the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima.
These parade appearances became the building blocks for a youth organization called “The Young Marines,” and Fackina became the first Young Marine in the State of New Jersey.
Fackina will be presented with the Lance Corporal Stanley J. Kopcinski Memorial Award at a ceremony to be held on Monday, May 28 at the VFW Post 226 Hall, located at 16 West Ninth Street, at 3 p.m. following the annual Bayonne Memorial Day Parade. The public is invited to this annual ceremony.
Like father, like son
After his family moved to Trenton in 1969, Fackina was honored as the State of New Jersey Young Marine of the Year for 1970. In 1973, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines, serving in a number of capacities before returning to civilian life.
Later, he worked as a steel worker and security officer, and recently retired from the New Jersey Department of Corrections as a sergeant after 20 years. He joined the Marine Corps League in 1995.
“Robert has been very active in veteran’s affairs since leaving the Marine Corps, having joined the Marine Corps League with the Hunterdon County Bulldogs Detachment No. 927,” said Barry Dugan, of the Bayonne Marine Corps League Detachment. “He is a charter member of this detachment, where he also served as its commandant. In addition, he is a dual member of Garden State Detachment. Bob is a life member of the Military Order of Devil Dogs and is a member of American Legion Post No. 159 in Flemington and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 452 in Manville.”
Fackina worked his way up in the Marine Corps League at the department level and served as New Jersey Department Commandant from 2009 to 2011.
“His father previously served in this position and they are the first father/son team to hold this position. His father, now deceased, was a retired Bayonne Fireman,” Dugan said.
“Robert has been very active in Veterans affairs since leaving the Marine Corps.” – Barry Dugan
The league began the award in 1967 to honor the memory of the first Bayonne Marine killed in combat in Vietnam. The Marines present the award each year following the Bayonne Memorial Day Parade. This will be the 43rd year that the award has been presented. The award is given to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the community.
Lance Corporal Stanley John Kopcinski enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1964 after he graduated Bayonne Technical High School. On May 14, 1966, at the age of 19, Kopcinski was killed in action by a command-detonated mine near Da Nang in South Vietnam, Quang Nam Province. He was the first Bayonne soldier to die on the battlefields of South Vietnam, according to the May 17, 1966 issue of the “Bayonne Times.” He was the first of 30 Bayonne residents to perish in that conflict.