Weehawken has been celebrating Memorial Day with a parade since 1932, with thousands in attendance waving and cheering along Boulevard East, but this year’s celebration took a lot more fine tuning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Richard Turner was joined by members of the American Legion Post 18, who stood at the foot of the township’s World War I Memorial to pay tribute to the U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who have died while serving in the country’s armed forces.
Last year’s celebration was very different.
At the American Legion Post 18’s center, Weehawken coordinated its very first naturalization ceremony with the district leader of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to welcome 30 new citizens from a broad swath of countries.
Six months later, the post hosted the township’s second naturalization ceremony and most likely would have hosted one this year if not for COVID-19 concerns.
Nonetheless, Turner said it was still important to gather at the foot of the memorial to remember those who served, as well the 20 Weehawken residents who have perished from the coronavirus.
“It’s one of those events that have to take place because you have to remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country, for our freedoms,” the mayor said in an interview.
“You do the best you can under the circumstances, but it’s also important to recognize those who serve in the military now, those who serve as first responders and essential workers and also those who lost their lives to the coronavirus.”
He added that the township is looking forward to a much bigger, better and safer 2021 celebration.
Post 18 Commander Troy Mack also emphasized the importance of holding an annual ceremony, even if this is a lot smaller than what people are accustomed to.
“This is a blessed day. Sometimes you do rituals, yes, because of the things they can do for us, but most of the time you offer rituals because of who we are, and this represents what I hope to be the best of all of us as neighbors, as friends, and as a community here in Weehawken,” said Mack.
Mack also noted that in support of this year’s Memorial Day weekend, the Post’s members were still able to offer memorial ceremonies in the other municipalities it has members, as well as care for the graves of the fallen in local cemeteries and support the Post’s “buddy check” initiative which reaches out to local North Hudson disabled and senior veterans to provide fellowship and resources.
Meanwhile, Post 18 First Vice Commander Gabriela Reynoso offered a few remarks about the significance of Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day is about the sacrifice made by men and women who have fought and died for the freedoms and liberties Americans hold dear. It’s also a time to remember that the American way of life is not cheap, but rather has been purchased by the lives and blood of so many who have sacrificed for us to live free and happily now,” said Reynoso.
The township also compiled a virtual Memorial Day celebration which can be viewed below: