Hamilton Parade to Welcome Home Returning Iraq War Veterans
The idea started at a Township Council meeting earlier this year, when Hamilton residents Ron Mikalaitis, Commander and Jeffrey Bock, Vice Commander of Hamilton’s VFW Post #3525, voiced a request – help in organizing a parade to welcome home returning Iraq War Veterans. The Council encouraged them to meet with the Mayor and Township Administration; and now, this Fourth of July, VFW Post #3525 and Hamilton Township will make that request a reality and honor local veterans who served in Iraq with a welcome home veteran’s parade.
Hamilton’s parade is the first such parade planned in New Jersey and will take place on Wednesday, July 4, 2012 (Independence Day), beginning at 9:30 A.M, rain or shine. Already over 100 military support organizations have been contacted by parade committee to participate in the parade.
Over the past few weeks, representatives of VFW Post #3525 and Operation Gratitude, which sends care packages to US Military, have met with Township officials to plan the parade’s route, which will begin at Grice Middle School and march along portions of Englewood Boulevard and Hempstead Road to the south (Kuser Road) entrance of Veterans Park. Following the parade, military support organizations, food vendors and musical entertainment will be available to attendees, while a special military flyover and helicopter landing are being planned. Operation Gratitude will provide special care packages to all Veterans and Wounded Warriors in attendance.
“Our [VFW] post felt that this was the right time to honor the brave men and women who have worn the uniform in service to our nation in Iraq,” says Jeffrey Bock, Vice Commander of Hamilton’s VFW Post #3525 and a military police officer with the NJ Air Force National Guard. “Whether serving as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom or New Dawn, we hope to collectively say ‘thank you’ to our service men and women for their sacrifices to our nation.”
“We all owe our brave members of the armed forces a great debt of gratitude for providing us with the freedom we enjoy every, single day,” says Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo. “I think this parade is just a small way to tell our returning troops ‘thank you’, ‘we appreciate your sacrifices for us’ and ‘welcome home’.”
Earlier this year, St. Louis became the first city in the nation to hold a parade in honor of all Iraqi war veterans. Approximately 20,000 participants, including some 600 veterans, marched in the St. Louis parade, with an estimated 100,000 observers in attendance.