While the sound of a lone trumpet could be heard playing “Taps” during Monday’s Veterans Day ceremony in Edgemont Memorial Park, the gathered crowd listened and reflected and the Montclair Police Honor Guard fired three rifle volleys into the air.
More than 50 residents, veterans, police and firemen and local officials met under the shadow of the towering World War I obelisk crowned with Winged Victory Monday morning to honor United States veterans. And Mayor Robert Jackson reminded everyone the day was not only to pay tribute to troops both past and present, but those that serve at home and abroad.
“Today we think about our veterans,” said Jackson. “... But as we look around our park, we see the ravages of Hurricane Sandy ... and we often forget that not only do they sacrifice lives and sacrifice themselves on foreign shores, but right here, domestically, we see the contribution of our military.”
The opening prayer was led by Rabbi Ariann Weitzman of Bnai Keshet, and the guest speaker for the ceremony was United States Marine Corps Sgt. Ethan Oguss, who served in Iraq.
Oguss, a Montclair native currently living in Butler, said the biggest issue facing veterans today is adjusting to life at home after their service.
“For many of the Marines in my team and battalion, the experience left very serious physical and emotional scares,” said Oguss.
“When we think about Veterans Day and honoring our veterans, we have to address the ongoing issues with our returning veterans who may or may not have physical wounds but certainly having a hard time re-acclimating to society.”
While Oguss returned home in 2007, he said his service never truly ended.
During his time in the Marine Corps, 48 people were killed in his battalion which he said propelled him to participate in various veterans organizations -- such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Hope for the Warriors and Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness -- who are helping raise funds and provide the care veterans need.
“You don’t just get over that,” said Orguss. “So in wanting to honor their memory and their tradition and their sacrifice, we [veterans] do a lot of fundraising together.”
While these groups and others are making a big difference in the lives of veterans, said Oguss, there is still much that needs to be done.
“If we are going to be proactive about our honoring of our veterans,” said Oguss, “we want to acknowledge some of these small groups that do a lot of good work that pick up where the [United States Veterans Affairs] is having so much trouble."