Although Hudson County has presented medals to World War II veterans twice over the last two years, said Barry Dugan, of Hudson County Veterans Affairs, this is the first time Korean War Veterans have been honored in this way.
The Bayonne veterans honored are Larry Barulli, Eugene Benedetto, John Fallon, Tullio Fumento, Harry Lazarov, Rocco Leone, John Nicaretta, Frank Polera and Martin Wilk.
"We had Veterans from eight of the twelve Cities in Hudson County and a few former residents of Hudson County," Dugan said.
Dugan began to push for the awards while he was still serving as freeholder from Bayonne on its Freeholders Military Affairs Committee and has continued in this role after retiring as Freeholder last year.
Dugan - a former U.S. Marine - said many veterans of the past have not received the recognition they deserved. Dugan said he got his idea when he learned that other counties in the state had honored their vets in a similar way. While there are awards for combat veterans given on various levels of state and federal government, the county medal is being issued to any veteran that has served. The award consists of a lapel pin and medal with ribbon. Dugan said the community needed to continue to recognize the contributions that veterans, combat era or not, and this would be one way to say thanks.
Some veterans, Dugan said, have not received the recognition they deserved, such as those who served during the Vietnam era or those that served during a period where there was no combat.
"We need to show these people that we appreciate what they have done in their serving our country," Dugan said.
While many of the current service people are being honored for their role in various conflicts, some of those that have served in previous years have not, Dugan said, calling them largely forgotten despite the fact that all of them gave up time in their lives to serve their country. It is for this forgotten veteran that Dugan wishes the medals to be issued, although he said, the program would begin with the oldest veterans first and work up to the younger ones.
Dugan said there is urgency to this because of the aging of veterans has been a growing problem over the last few years.
"I don't think we have a World War I veteran in Hudson County any more, although I know there have been some in other counties," he said.
But many World War II veterans are beginning to fade, and many vets from the Korean War are now over 70. The average age World War II veteran is over 80.