"Memorial Day is not a festive holiday," said John McMahon, the veterans' affairs monitor in Union City, during a ceremony held on May 27. "It is a day of remembrance and reflection."
Besides those veterans who died while they served, McMahon reminded the dozen or so people who attended the ceremony in Union City that they also should remember those veterans who are now in nursing homes, victims of the Holocaust, both living and dead, and the many prisoners of war and people considered to be missing in action.
"We must also remember those who lost their lives on Sept. 11 and those that tried to save them," said McMahon.
Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, began as the time set aside to honor the dead soldiers of the Civil War by decorating their graves. The first Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30, 1868.
In Union City
Union City planned two events last week in remembrance of the holiday. The members of American Legion Post 14 of West Hoboken held their annual wreath placing ceremony at Ellsworth Park on May 27.
Legion Commander Paul Novembre said that one wreath was placed before both veterans memorial statues in the park, one remembering those who died in the Civil War and one remembering those who died in World War I. "These men sacrificed their lives so that we can have a better life here in the United States," said Novembre, adding that more than 2 million men were killed in battle in the United States.
During this ceremony, two students from the Union Hill High School History Club spoke about the holiday. Andreis Acebo spoke about the history and significance of the holiday and Gloria Portocarrero read a poem. "Teenagers perceive [Memorial Day] as just another holiday because we get out of school," said Acebo, explaining that the holiday is more than just a long weekend.
Union City also planned a service for May 30, the actual day that was designated as Memorial Day, at Roosevelt Stadium. This service was planned in lieu of a parade, which is traditionally held for the holiday. This ceremony was to have a traditional Memorial Day service and a special service for Union City residents who perished in the World Trade Center.
In West New York
On May 27, West New York held a ceremony honoring the holiday at the Veteran's Monument on Boulevard East. The ceremony began with a parade that ran from 67th Street and Bergenline Avenue to the monument.
The West New York Police Department's Honor Guard led the parade through the town. Also taking part were local veterans, the Memorial High School Band and the town's grammar schools' athletic teams and bands.
The ceremony, which was attended by the town's officials and Rep. Robert Menendez (D- 13th Dist.), also included a special ceremony for those West New York residents that perished in the World Trade Center.
The ceremony was organized by West New York's Joint Veterans' Affairs Committee.