By Danielle Woodruffe
It may have been a coincidence that Parker decided to honor fallen Veterans this Memorial Day with a special tribute to the famous, local World War I soldier and poet, Joyce Kilmer. It may have also been a coincidence that Adult Day participant, Leonard Aarons joined the ceremony as one of Parker’s most beloved Veterans. And it just may have been a coincidence that Kilmer served in the 69th infantry regiment army out of New York, the exact same regiment as Aaron’s father, 100 years ago.
But for Aaron, this was not a coincidence.
“I couldn’t prepare myself for what I was going to hear today and it means a lot to me that here’s an honor bestowed on a man who served in the same regiment as my father,” explains Aarons. “Now, I’m a member of the Parker family and I’m here, and it’s so touching. This happened for a reason.”
Aarons, an army veteran himself, was brought to tears at the unexpected connection. He, along with Stonegate resident and Air Force Veteran Walter Braun, took part in the service honoring Kilmer and other fallen heroes at Elmwood Cemetery in New Brunswick where Kilmer’s cenotaph is located next to his family plot.
“Many of us today know people and remember people that have given everything and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” remarked Eleanor Molloy, President of Elmwood Cemetery, while addressing the crowd. “We want to honor them this weekend and remember them with the dignity, the courage and the bravery that they have exhibited and exemplified for us to lead those kinds of lives.”
Former Parker trustee, Kearney Kuhlthau, who also once served as president of Elmwood Cemetery, read one of Kilmer’s most famous poems; Rouge Bouquet.
There is on earth no worthier grave
To hold the bodies of the brave
Than this place of pain and pride
Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
(*Excerpt from Joyce Kilmer, Rouge Bouquet)
The words were written by Kilmer while on the battlefield, and were followed by the playing of Taps.
Braun, who served during the Vietnam War, is also a part of the Jewish War Veterans. He paid tribute to whom he says are the “real heroes,” those serving our country right now. He spoke of how honored he feels that Parker chose to hold the ceremony.
“I think it’s decent of you guys for doing this,” added Braun. “Remembering history keeps the story in your mind so we don’t forget.”
Parker presented Elmwood Cemetery with a wreath in memory of U.S. fallen heroes.
This Memorial Day, Parker would like to thank all of our heroes past and present for the tremendous sacrifice they make each day so that all of us can have our freedom. We remember.