Montclair paid tribute to veterans by celebrating, honoring, and remembering them at a small gathering held at Edgemont Memorial Park Saturday.
On the sunny morning of November 11, as the Montclair Community Band practiced in the background, community members began gathering at the Edgemont Memorial Park to honor veterans and pay their respects to those who sacrificed their lives for our country.
Deputy Mayor William L. Hurlock introduced the dignitaries to the public followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Reverend Audrey Hasselbrook, from St. James Episcopal Church led the invocation, seeking blessings for veterans of the United States and honoring those who laid their lives down for others, as well as those recovering from injuries and for others still serving.
Hurlock introduced speaker Joseph Bates, who was part of the 250th Signal Battalion in 1995 in the United States Army National Guard that served as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bates, who also works as an aquatic facility manager at Montclair Recreation Department, is fire captain at Montclair Fire Department.
“What’s a veteran?” Bates asked. After an online search, Bates said he found an answer that struck a chord with him. “A veteran – whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve – is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount of up to, and including his life,” he quoted.
Bates mentioned the sacrifices his family had to make when he was first deployed and the constant worry many loved ones have to go through, including his wife when he missed calling home for three days. “When the blank check is cashed it can affect many people in our lives,” Bates said. “Our families and loved ones can also be called veterans for their sacrifice.”
Terence Scantlebury of Post Commander Crawford Crews Post 251 led the reflection. “How many of you present today are veterans here?” Seven people stood up in the crowd and were greeted with a resounding applause.
Scantlebury touched on the importance of being grateful to the sacrifices of veterans.
“There are 23 veteran suicides a day and several homeless veterans” he said. “Be the one to shake a veteran’s hand. Ask them questions like ‘how are you today?’ and ‘What do you need?’”