When Chris Jodice heard that he was chosen as grand marshal for the annual Weehawken Memorial Day parade, he gave a response that might resonate with many soldiers: “That sounds good; what do I have to do?”
Responding to the call of duty, whatever that may be, is something the Air Force Staff Sergeant is very familiar with – he signed up for the service after his father survived 9/11 and did two tours in Iraq, returning voluntarily.
On Monday he will be honored as one of Weehawken’s proud military heroes as he leads the parade, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Highpoint and Gregory avenues in Weehawken.
The parade will take place Monday starting with assembly at 9 a.m.
Big boots to fill
As one of the youngest veterans in Weehawken, 24-year-old Jodice joins the ranks of the men he has looked up to his whole life by serving as grand marshal.
“I remember always seeing Chuck [Barone, VFW Commander and Vietnam War veteran] in uniform marching,” he said.
Now Barone, – the man Jodice said he remembers leading parades and heading up the baseball league as a kind of ominous figure – is a special friend to him.
It’s a relationship that Jodice said was forged immediately upon his deployment to Iraq.
“When I got deployed, he gave me stuff that he took with him to Vietnam,” said Jodice. “Right then and there it became more personal. And ever since I came back he’s been very helpful. [He] has an understanding of what veterans go through.”
Indeed, all of the veterans from VFW Post 1923 have welcomed him home with open arms since he returned late last summer.
Jodice was the first recipient of the VFW Post 1923 “Operation Welcome Home” fund, which provided him with $500 to help him get assimilated back home.
In honor of others
Jodice spent a year and a half of his four years of active duty in the service as part of the military police and security forces in Iraq.
He said that as he walks in the parade on Monday, it is his fellow soldiers whom he served with in Iraq – some of whom are still overseas – who will be on his mind.
He will also be thinking of those who came home injured, and the deceased who never got the chance to come home at all.
“That’s all that’s going to be on my mind marching down the streets,” he said. “I guess you could say this is for them.”
Although there’s much talk in political circles about the troops being pulled out of the Middle East and the war coming to an end soon, Jodice knows the lingering threat of troop deployment to hostile areas is still very real.
“That’s one thing that I get nervous about,” he said. “I know my buddies are going to get deployed again; it’s a hard thing knowing they’re going to get deployed and I can’t be there beside them.”
Looking towards the future
Jodice joined the VFW while he was still serving in Iraq and has been involved with the group since his return.
He is currently serving four years of inactive reserve with the Air Force and attending Kean University.
Though he initially began the school year with thoughts of being a teacher, Jodice said he’s now considering first trying a career in the Department of Defense that could allow him to continue to serve his country in a different way.
And as he continues to navigate life at home as a veteran of foreign war, he’s trying to get his fellow young veterans to band together as well.
“I’m hoping that we get more young people involved,” he said. “The VFW is something that can give back to these kids.”
The Weehawken Memorial Day Parade will take place on Monday, May 30 starting with assembly at 9 a.m. at Highpoint and Gregory avenues. Forward march will begin at 9:30 a.m.
The parade route will head west on Highpoint Avenue to Hudson Avenue, north on Hudson Avenue to Maple Street, and east on Maple Street to Ridgely Place. It will then continue onto Pleasant Avenue and head north on Pleasant Avenue to Park Avenue.
The route will proceed up Park Avenue to 49th Street and go east on 49th Street to Blvd. East, where it will stop for a few minutes.
From there it will head south on Blvd. East to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monuments.
The Memorial Day Parade will conclude at 11 a.m. with a ceremony taking place at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monuments on Blvd. East.
In case of rain, the parade ceremony program will be held at the Weehawken High School gym on Liberty Pl. at 11 a.m.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at email@example.com.