LAVALLETTE – You couldn’t get a more hometown view of the solemn observance of Memorial Day than during the borough’s ceremony that noted the specific impact of losing residents who were in service to their country.
A wreath was presented by Larry Pollin and Barbara Pollin Greger in memory of George John Pollin who served as a major in the U.S. Air Force. Family members in attendance were Erin Pollin, Karen Pollin Storms and Robert and Julie Greger.
A wreath was also donated by the Skinner, Mathis and Molnar families and presented by Jerry Skinner, Patty Skinner Mathis, Bill Skinner and Kevin Skinner in memory of Private First-Class Donald A. Skinner.
Council President Anita Zalom, who served as host of the event, described them as “Lavallette sons who gave their all so that we may enjoy our freedom. We raise our voices, our thoughts and our prayers together.
“The observance was moved to the last weekend of May in the early 1970s to give everyone a long weekend but nobody should forget the real reason for the holiday which is to reflect on the sacrifices of those who gave their lives. Here on the Jersey Shore, we mark the start of the summer season. A flurry of barbecues, beach time fun and relaxation we all enjoy, yet we must remember the solemn side of the holiday and pause to honor their memory,” Zalom added.
She noted that Lavallette is a small shore community less than one square mile with a year-round population of close to 2,000 people but the two service members from Lavallette who died during the Vietnam conflict grew up in a community that had a population of just 500 residents.
“George Pollin accepted a commission in the United States Air Force. His dream was always to be an aviator. George was shot down in April 1967 and five weeks later another classmate, Lavallette resident Donald Skinner, was also killed in action. It was at this point that Lavallette realized there was a war going on. For a small town this size to lose two men in such a short time was devastating for everyone,” Zalom said.
Mayor Walter G. LaCicero also reminded attendees why they were gathered. “Today is not the day we thank those in the active military for their service. That day is Armed Forces Day…This is not the day that we thank those who previously served in the military, that day is Veterans Day, and that occurs on November 11.
“Today is Memorial Day, the day we honor those who have died in military actions in defense of this country. The families of those who have died and those who are yet to die deserve the respect that Memorial Day is intended to convey,” the mayor added.
Zalom noted those from Lavallette who died in service during World War I, World War II and the Korean War whose names are listed on the borough’s Memorial monument in the park. “For a town this small, we gave a lot.” Others in Lavallette who died while serving their nation include Harry Bloom, Adolph Kurmin, John Osborn and Martin Gavio.
She also thanked Girl Scout Troop 239 and Daisy Troop 60104 for painting red, white and blue shells and placing flags along the walkway. She welcomed the borough’s new school superintendent, Lisa Gleason, who presented a rose bush to adorn the gazebo on behalf of the Lavallette Board of Education.
A short parade took place from the Borough’s nearby firehouse to Memorial Park where the ceremony was held. The parade included the color guard, firefighters, Girl Scouts and Daisy Troop members.
Wreaths were presented from various Lavallette organizations including the Regular Republican Club, Yacht Club, PBA, Business Association, School PTO, Seniors Group and the Ortley Beach Moose #399.
Councilman James Borowski introduced the ceremony’s guest speaker, Army Lt. Col. Scott F. Wyatt “who is in his 23rd year of service to our nation. He has previously worked for special operations, command central, Scott and his wife the former Christine Borowski have three daughters. I am glad he is here today to share some of his thoughts on this solemn holiday.”
Wyatt remarked, “Memorial Day or Decoration Day as it used to be called is deeply meaningful for those of us that serve. When we go to honor the sacrifice and remember our fallen comrades and decorate them one last time, say goodbye, we try to make peace with it so we can go on and do our mission.
“Those ceremonies mean something extremely different for our Gold Star families, the moms, husbands, the fathers, sons, daughters: It means their loved one will never come through the front door again. They will never celebrate another birthday party, experience the joy of graduation or an anniversary trip. Those ceremonies mean the beginning of a new life and one they have to come to grips with,” Wyatt said.
He spoke about a recent conversation he had with a Gold Star mother who he asked, “how do you get through Memorial Day weekend?” Her reply to him was, “every day is Memorial Day for me. This weekend is different; family, friends, communities even our nation come together and remember.”
He urged everyone to remember and to support those families who lost loved ones in service to the country. “They need our strength. Remember them in our own special way.”
Council President Zalom noted former Councilman Walter Donlan, who served on the dais for many years, was remembered with a living memorial tree and a commemorative plaque in his honor.
The ceremony featured the vocal and musical talents of Sandra Concha, Douglas and Jon Houser, a charcoal drawing “Fallen Hero” by Adam Douglas Houser, a poem presented by Councilwoman Joanne Filippone, the invocation offered by Reverend Todd Condell, of Lavallette Union Church, a benediction by Pastor John Collins of Faith Lutheran Church and “Taps” performed by Tom D’Antoni.