Early this morning in Freehold Borough, veterans made the solemn walk down East Main Street in honor of the servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation.
“In the hustle and bustle of today a lot of people are having picnics and barbecues and whatnot. And this is really the true meaning of Memorial Day, is this service,” said Freehold Borough Councilman George Schnurr.
They gathered at Elk’s Point to remember our country’s heroes.
“Freehold has been well known to supply veterans and they have answered the country’s call time and time again,” said Marine Corps veteran Matthew Veprek.
There are more than 60 markers, crosses and the Star of David in the borough for those who lost their lives in the line of service. One of the earliest crosses stands for a man who died during the Revolutionary War. Most of the service members were either born in Freehold or went to high school there. Carol Schreier stood over her uncle’s cross.
“My dad came for years and years and years and we lost dad last summer and there’s no way we’re not going to represent the family,” Schreier said.
“It’s a celebration of his life,” added Marie Schlechtweg. “I mean, it’s not just his death. It’s his life, too.”
After the service the veterans joined in on the Freehold Memorial Day Parade.
“We put a parade together to honor the men and women that did not make it back from wars,” said a teary-eyed Alice McCobb, who chairs the parade. “The parade itself to me is fluff. What’s standing behind me is the reason I do it.”
The parade began with a flag-draped casket.
“The casket says ‘Lest We Forget’ why we are all here and what Memorial Day means,” said McCobb.
“This is about those who didn’t come home and honoring them and their memory and their sacrifice so we can be in a free country to have parades like this,” added Amanda McCobb, the vice chair of the parade and Alice’s daughter.
Her mother, Alice, has been running the parade for about 30 years.
“We believe we’re the oldest and longest consecutively running Memorial Day parade in, definitely in Monmouth County, but in the state possibly as well,” Amanda said.
This is the 144th Freehold Memorial Day Parade. There are about 70 different groups that participate. It takes a tremendous amount of work to coordinate. There is a 15 person volunteer committee that works all year long. After today’s parade they’ll already start thinking about next year’s event.
Ninety-four year old World War II veteran John J. Maziekien Jr. was the Grand Marshal.
“We lost so many men in the War and the battle of Iwo Jima. There were three divisions and a total of over 6,000 marines died at Iwo Jima. They’re the heroes in my mind, I’m not a hero. I’m a survivor,” said Maziekien.
The parade organizers disagree, they insist John is a hero too, for protecting and defending the United States of America and all those who call this country home.