Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown: Somber reflections, after a turbulent national election

A Vietnam vet salutes on Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A Vietnam vet salutes on Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Video: The National Anthem, Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown

By Kevin Coughlin

On a hands-in-your-pockets November Friday, with the flag rippling high above the chilly Morristown Green, a few dozen dignitaries, residents and vets gathered for a subdued Veterans Day ceremony that seemed to reflect the national mood after this gut-wrenching presidential season.

A Vietnam vet salutes on Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A Vietnam vet salutes on Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“When we are so divided and so misunderstood, and have such a dichotomy of views, this system can grind to a halt,” Art Grant, commander of Morristown American Legion Post 59, quietly told listeners.

Yet the Founding Fathers devised a series of checks and balances “so the system can repair itself and continue to function…They set that up,” Grant said.

“Veterans have defended it, and made it what it is today, may God love and bless every one of them.”

It’s our civic duty to instill in young people respect for the millions of men and women killed or wounded in defense of our way of life, said Morris Township Committeeman Peter Mancuso.

Americans also must look after returning servicemen and women–especially those who come home to life on the streets, said Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty.

“We still fall short on veterans health care,” the Mayor said. “If you look around, not just Morristown, but all over this country, a large percentage of our homeless are veterans. That’s something that we cannot tolerate.”

The sharp crack of rifles echoed through the trees, in a salute by soldiers from Morristown’s 3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery. Morristown High School buglers Anna Sinclair and Conor Lenahan solemnly performed the National Anthem and Taps.

Video: Rifles and Taps, Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown

‘HERE, SON. GO FIGHT THE WAR’

An emotional moment came when Robert Rybak, a Parsippany resident named Veteran of the Year, spoke of his service as a Marine corporal.  He was just 17 when he entered the military.

Veteran of the Year Robert Rybak speaks on Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Veteran of the Year Robert Rybak speaks on Veterans Day 2016 in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I knew where I was going. That was Vietnam,” said Ryback, who served in Danang.

“As I arrived there at 1 o’clock in the morning, I was given my weapon. They said, ‘Here, son, go fight the war.’

“In a strange country. I didn’t know anybody, didn’t know what to expect. It was not easy, and I was confused, and I realized it was not real. I was not prepared for wartime.”

Many public officials paid their respects on this holiday. State Assemblymen Michael Patrick Carroll and Anthony M. Bucco (both R-25th Dist.) came out; so did Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp and Sheriff-elect Jim Gannon.

Council members Michelle Dupree Harris and Alison Deeb and former Council members Rebecca Feldman and Dick Tighe were there from Morristown.

Township Administrator Tim Quinn and former Township Mayor Kathleen Hyland also were in the audience.   The Rev. Brandon Cho, pastor of the Morristown United Methodist Church, delivered the invocation.

Morning services were conducted at war monuments across Greater Morristown, and at the Township municipal building.

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