Hoboken's Memorial Day parade is scheduled for May 23, beginning outside of City Hall at Washington and First streets at 7 p.m. and concluding at a review stand between 10th and 11th streets outside of the Elks Lodge, where a hot dog and soda/beer celebration will be provided immediately following the parade.
Veterans from all five military branches, who have served as far back as World War II and as recently as Operation Iraqi Freedom, will participate in this year's event, which will include bagpipes and several Hudson County marching bands, including the Port Authority Fife and Drum band.
Hoboken High School's marching band will participate for the first time in four years, after it was re-started earlier this year.
"I hope people appreciate the sacrifices made and the lives lost that have made all the freedoms we enjoy possible," said Thomas Kennedy, a former Marine who is commander of Hoboken's American Legion Post 107. "Unfortunately, for many Memorial Day has become a time to shop or a time to barbeque, when it should be a day we remember the hundreds of thousands of Americans who gave their lives for us."
This year's grand marshal will be Gerald "Jerry" Smith, a lifelong Hoboken resident and a six-year U.S. Army veteran who, in addition to having fought in Korea, is a decorated former Hoboken firefighter who served the local community for 25 years before retiring in 1982.
Smith is also a member of the International Longshoremen's Association for 35 years and the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, who named him Irishman of the Year in 1999.
Smith's contribution to the community is not limited to Hoboken. He is also a member and treasurer of the Weehawken American Legion Post.
"Jerry is a great guy who has helped a lot of people over the years, having served the community in many ways. He's truly deserving of being recognized for all that he's done," said fellow World War II veteran Roy Huelbig, a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who also served with Smith on the Hoboken Fire Department for over 20 years. "Every job he did, he did it well. This is just our way of showing how much we appreciate the guy."
The parade is being sponsored and organized by the Hoboken Joint Memorial Committee, which consists of the American Legion, Disabled American Veteran, Elks Lodge, and the local Police and Fire departments.
Hoboken's military past
Hoboken has played a vital role in American war efforts over the years.
In 1917, the commander-in-chief of the Army Expeditionary Forces, General "Black Jack" Pershing, addressed thousands of Marines and soldiers at Pier A before they were to board ships headed for Europe. It was here where Pershing uttered the famous words "Heaven, hell or Hoboken," referring to where the soldiers would be by Christmas.
A total of 1,777,109 troops passed through Hoboken on their way to Europe to fight in World War I. The city lost 71 men in that Great World War.
In World War II, workers on the Hoboken waterfront repaired damaged war ships and built new ones. A railroad track went up River Street, loading ships with supplies headed for the troops fighting in Europe. The entire town worked toward supporting the war effort. By the end of the war, over 150 men from Hoboken gave their lives fighting Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
The city lost two men in Korea and nine in Vietnam.
No Hoboken residents were lost in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WW II memorial postponed until November
After initially predicting a 2007 Memorial Day ribbon-cutting for the long-anticipated World War II Memorial along Sinatra Drive, veterans now expect the monument to be completed by this coming Veteran's Day, Nov. 11. According to World War II Memorial Committee member John Carey, a Vietnam-era Army veteran, the date had been pushed back due to several design alterations made since the initial proposal. The changes stemmed from a change in location and budgetary cutbacks.
On Friday May 11, the city received bids from three contractors looking to build the monument.
According to Hoboken Business Administrator Richard England, the prospective bids range from $428,000 to $685,000 and are only for the construction of the monument's base. The committee must still purchase the surrounding lights, replica rifles, and statue that will be included in the monument.
Local architect Dean Marchetto, whose firm created the proposed design for the memorial pro bono, estimated the statue portion to cost in the area of $50,000 and the replica rifles to cost approximately $112,000.
Now that the city has received bids, they will go before the World War II Memorial Committee, which consists of 10 local veterans and is spearheaded by Hoboken's American Legion Post 107.
As of now, the Committee has raised approximately $50,000 from donations for the memorial.
That money will be added to the city's contribution of $500,000 and the state's $250,000, the latter of which was procured in large part by the efforts of State Sen. Bernard Kenny Jr. The remaining funds will be provided through future fundraising attempts.
The monument will be a raised structure with a bronze statue of a soldier assisting a wounded warrior off the battlefield. The statue will be surrounded by 21 replica rifles, bayonet down, to signify the 21-gun salute.
Originally, the plan called for 150 rifles, signifying the approximate amount of Hoboken residents who were killed in World War II. However, budgetary concerns associated with the scale of the project forced the veterans to revise it.
Also, the initial monument was to be set along the water on the walkway in the area of Fifth Street and Sinatra Drive to simulate the French coastline where so many Americans lost their lives on D-Day. The plan was challenged in court by local activists who objected to it blocking the walkway. The veterans agreed to move the statue from near Fifth Street to Fourth Street. - MM