At least 80 residents of Heritage Bay gathered around a memorial stone today to salute and honor the veterans in their adult community.
"Monuments convey society's recognition of the sacrifices made by the men and women on behalf of a grateful nation," said John Rivers, 80, commander of Post 10092, Veterans of Foreign Wars in Barnegat.
"They are a reminder of deeds performed and endured which must never be forgotten," said Rivers, who served in the Korean War and is a resident of Heritage Bay. "Always remember that freedom starts with an idea, is defended by men and women in the armed forces and is kept alive by our veterans."
James Kenna, president of Abby Rose, Inc., a monuments, memorials, mirrors and glass company based in Trenton, donated the stone, while Bib Kraft, owner of Meticulous Landscaping in Waretown donated and installed the pavers around it. One side of the simple but elegant gray monument thanks all veterans for their service, while the other lists all branches of the U.S. military.
To many of the approximately 35 veterans gathered around the stone on this sunny day, the event triggered mixed feelings -- gratitude, sadness and pride.
Dorothy Fox, 86, who is a resident of the Heritage Baycommunity, studied and worked as a nurse cadet in New York from 1944 to 1947, taking care of the wounded from across the sea. Fox. who was 18 when she started, remembers them well, she said: the amputees, the wounded, the shell-shocked.
"It's sad," Fox said. "During the week, I don't think of all that, but now my mind is going back to it all."
"Some of it you try to put behind you," said John Maestri, 85, who joined the force in the Pacific at the end of World War II, he said. "But you still have to be here. You still have to remember. You have to belong."
Resident Doris O'Malley, 82, taught the children of American soldiers in Japan in mid-1950s. O'Malley's father served in World War I, her husband and brother-in-law fought in World War II and her cousin is a Vietnam veteran. When she was asked about the meaning of the memorial dedication, O'Malley was overcome by tears.
"There is no need for me to cry," she said, her voice breaking. "I didn't lose anybody. But I think that's so noble that these men were willing to lose their lives, not knowing if they were going to come back."
Plenty of smiles were shared too, as the veterans and their neighbors traded news of the day and consumed donuts after the ceremony.
"I'm so happy and so proud to see so many people who came here today," said Tony Juliano, 70, the president of the Hertiage Bay Homeowners Association.
"I'm proud to have been in service and I'm proud of all the veterans who have served," said Fox.