In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
There are several events taking place this Monday throughout Jersey City to commemorate veterans who not only lost their lives in service but those who served and survived, as well as those are still serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
This Memorial Day also allows some Jersey City residents to reflect upon on what Memorial Day means to them as well on the effects of war of the past as well as the present.What Memorial Day means to me?
Richard Boggiano is a detective in the Jersey City Police Department who served in the U.S. Marines in the 1960s, and he is the father of two sons, Christian and Jonathan, both Army officers who served in Iraq recently. Boggiano and his wife, Mary, led a campaign last year to collect used bulletproof vests from police departments across New Jersey that were sent to Iraq to help shield military Humvees.
"[Memorial Day] means a lot of people gave their lives for this country. Means a lot to me as a former Marine," said Boggiano. "It is especially a time for me to be proud of my two sons for their service to their country. But I also think of all the soldiers in the Vietnam War and the Korean War who didn't get the proper honors they deserved."
Barbara Petrick is the president of Sgt. Joseph Anthony Park Association. The association maintains the park on Palisade Avenue named in honor of the former Dickinson High School baseball star that grew up across the street from the site of the park, and later died in combat in World War II. The association has held a small ceremony in the park every Memorial Day in honor of Anthony the last couple of years.
For Petrick, a former history teacher at Dickinson, Memorial Day helps her to recall a loved one who also died in WWII. "The person I think about on Memorial Day is John Cifarelli, my favorite uncle growing up. He died at Iwo Jima in 1945 when I was nine years old, and it was a dramatic loss for my entire family," said Petrick. The Battle of Iwo Jima started on Feb. 19, 1945 as U.S. forces landed on the Japanese island. After 36 days of combat, 6,821 U.S. soldiers along with estimated 20,000-plus Japanese defenders were killed.
David Cline settled in Jersey City in the early 1970s, after serving in Vietnam in the U.S Army in the 35th Infantry Division from 1967 until 1969. Cline left disabled from wounds suffered in Vietnam and now heads the Jersey City Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee. Since 1998 the committee has led one of the largest Memorial Day ceremonies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Pershing Field. Since 1970, Cline has also been a member of the Vietnam Veterans against the War.
Cline looked back on his youth, when he had hopes of serving in the military, and then being drafted into a war that led to him spending much of his life trying to dissuade others from making a mistake that could impact on the rest of their lives.
"Memorial Day is a day to reflect on war but some look at Memorial Day as a day to glorify war. I fought in Vietnam and some continue to justify U.S. presence there, usually people who never fought," said Cline. "I remember as a young man I wanted so much to serve in the military that I would take books from the library on the subject. Then I discovered girls so I lost interest, but I got drafted and ended up in Vietnam."
Cline added, "Now, just like in Vietnam, you have young men and women coming back from Iraq with post-traumatic disorders that have led some to commit suicide and others to alcohol abuse."
One of those young men that Cline referred to who came back from war not fully healed physically and mentally was Clarence Fitch. Jersey City born and raised, Fitch went to Vietnam in 1967. While in the Marines, he developed the beginning of a fifteen-year addiction to heroin. Fitch eventually kicked the habit in 1983 and became an anti-war activist and a drug rehabilitation counselor until his death in 1990 from AIDS.
Fitch will be remembered during the ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Pershing Field this Monday as his sister Mona Fitch will speak about those who died as the result of war-related causes. Footnotes on Memorial Day
This year's Memorial Day sees American soldiers, male and female, deployed throughout the world, especially in the danger zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
As of this Memorial Day, May 30, over 1,700 American troops have been killed and many thousands more were wounded physically and mentally from facing every minute the reality of death, and from inflicting death upon those they encountered in battle.
An estimate done by Iraq Body Count (www.iraqbodycount.net) of Iraqi civilians killed from March 2003, when the U.S. coalition troops entered in Iraq, to May 11 puts the total between 21,795 and 24,735, although it is believed that over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed during this military excursion. Sidebar Still a family operation
Among the events taking place on Memorial Day:
At 9 a.m. the Polish Army Veterans Association will hold their commemoration event at their headquarters on the corner of Jersey Avenue and Sixth Street. The veterans, many of whom served in the Polish Army during World War II, will do a rising of the American flag and the Polish national flag to half-mast in tribute to those who died in war, and then they will hold a breakfast.
At 10:30 a.m., the Sgt. Joseph Anthony Park Association will hold their ceremony in the park located on Palisade Avenue.
At 12 p.m., a ceremony will take place in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 280 Grove St., to recognize Filipino World War II veterans.
At 3 p.m., the ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Pershing Field will take place. There the keynote speaker will be Vietnam War chaplain Kenneth Herbster on the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
Hoboken-based Rev. Mona Fitch will also speak about her late brother, Vietnam veteran Clarence Fitch.
For more information about the Sgt. Anthony Memorial Day event, contact Barbara Petrick at (201) 659-8059. For more information on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial event, call David Cline at (201) 876-0430