Morris County Memorial Day Observance Honors 15 Distinguished Veterans
In an emotional and reverent ceremony, the Morris County Board of County Commissioners awarded Distinguished Military Service Medals to 15 veterans at the Morris County Annual Memorial Day Observance yesterday. The event, held outside the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown, was attended by state legislators and representatives of Congressional offices, who joined in recognizing the exemplary service of these veterans.
These esteemed veterans' service spans from World War II to recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Commissioner Director and USMC retired, John Krickus, in his heartfelt remarks, underscored the profound sacrifices these veterans made, leaving behind everyday life for the sake of defending our nation and its founding principles.
"They fought to protect our borders and for our inherent values – self-government, individual rights, due process, and the rule of law. Their service led to significant historical milestones such as ending slavery, liberating concentration camps, and helping numerous nations to enjoy freedom," Krickus elaborated.
Joint Senate-Assembly Citations were also presented to the veterans by Sen. Anthony Bucco, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, and Assemblyman Christian Barranco. Additional honors came from Nicholas Henry, representing Congressman Tom Kean, and Willy Tolba, representing Congresswoman Mikie Sherill.
The event was highlighted by an inspiring keynote address by Assemblyman Brian Bergen, a distinguished combat veteran. Bergen, who served in the U.S. Army for eight years and was an officer, a company commander, and an Apache helicopter pilot, emphasized the importance of leading a meaningful life as the best way to honor the sacrifices of fallen comrades.
He said, "The only true way to honor their sacrifice is to live a life worthy of the gift they've given us: the gift of freedom. We must strive to improve continuously, make those around us and the world a better place."
The ceremony also saw the continuation of a poignant tradition, with the Commissioners paying tribute to a fallen soldier, George W. Cook, who died in the Philippine War. Commissioner Deputy Director Christine Myers led this emotional tribute, reinforcing that Morris County would always remember its heroes.
First introduced in 1999 to honor WWII veterans, the Morris County Distinguished Military Service Medals are unique to Morris County. Over the years, they have been modified and expanded to honor veterans of different conflicts, with new medals for Iraq and Afghanistan unveiled last year.
The Memorial Day Observance honored several veterans, some posthumously, each with unique stories of courage and service.
Further Memorial Day events are scheduled, including a ceremony hosted by the Washington Township Recreation Department and the American Veterans Association of Washington Township Post 1776, where nine local veterans will receive the Morris County Distinguished Service Medals. Commissioner Director Krickus is set to deliver the keynote speech at this event, ensuring that the county's gratitude to its veterans continues to resonate throughout Memorial Day weekend.
Frank G. Blair, Gillette, (posthumous)
George Connolly, Jr., Mendham
Anthony D. Vara, Pequannock, (unable to attend ceremony)
Robert A. Newhouse, Florham Park
Robert K. Newman, Cedar Knolls
Joel Lebowitz, Lake Hiawatha
Kenneth Matzek, Dover
Shane T. Richeal, Rockaway
James M. Koons, Morris Township
Gary R. Martin, Denville
David M. Okada, Morris Township
Carol P. Simmons, Madison
Michael Wisniewski, Morristown
Edward W. D’Angelo, Parsippany (posthumous)
Edward J. D’Angelo, Parsippany
Michael D’Angelo, Parsippan
“Look Back on a Fallen Morris County Hero.”
Morris County cherishes the memory of its heroes, particularly those who've fallen in service. Upholding an esteemed Memorial Day tradition, we honor one of our own: George W. Cook, a casualty of the often-overlooked Philippine War.
The U.S.S. Maine's tragic sinking in Havana Harbor in 1898 spurred the rallying cry, “Remember the Maine,” swiftly thrusting America into conflict with Spain. Born in Morristown in 1875, Cook, at 22, enlisted in the U.S. Army and served with the 2nd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry's Company M.
Despite training in Sea Girt and a stint in Florida, Cook was stricken with Typhoid Fever, missing the conflict with Spain. The war concluded in December 1898 with Spain ceding control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the U.S., igniting the Philippine-American War. Unbowed, Cook re-enlisted, joining the U.S. Army, 4th Regiment, and was deployed to Luzon.
Tragically, on June 18, 1899, near the City of Imus, Private George Cook's life was cut short by a fatal gunshot wound to the temple. The U.S. would lose more soldiers in the Philippines than in the entire Spanish-American conflict.
In homage to their fallen comrade, fellow veterans from Company M bore Cook's casket when he was laid to rest in Morristown. Civil War veteran George Hessey sounded TAPS at Cook's funeral held at the Church of the Assumption, just a stone's throw from his final resting place in St. Mary’s Cemetery.