The Bayonne Board of Education honored four veterans at its third annual Field of Heroes ceremony on November 1, including former Mayor James J. Donovan, former Mayor Richard A. Rutkowski, Jack Graham, and Andrew Szyposzynski, a social studies teacher at Bayonne High School.
The annual memorial service began in 2016. The school honors several veterans and installs hundreds of American flags on the front lawn on Avenue A. The names of veterans are added every year to an engraved stone memorial in front of the flag pole outside Bayonne High School.
“As the field of heroes enters its third year, we make a pledge, not one that will fade as words, but one that will be remembered and marked in stone for generations to come,” said Interim Superintendent Michael A. Wanko in front of hundreds of students, faculty, and veterans in the Bayonne High School auditorium.
“As we celebrate those who serve, it’s only fitting that we do it right here in Bayonne, New Jersey,” said guest speaker Jerome Parker, who teaches at West Point and fought in Afghanistan. “This city knows service like few others, as the home of three medal of honor recipients.”
He continued, “The service of Bayonne was not only on the foreign soil of our allies and adversaries. The Military Ocean Terminal of Bayonne played a significant role in supporting our nation’s interests from World War I to Desert Storm.”
“Our veterans are the most important group of people in our country because it is them who provide the freedom that we wake up to each and every day, and it’s up to us to send a simple thank you to each and every one of our veterans,” said Mayor James Davis, a former police officer and police chief. “To all the veterans out there, thank you for your service. To all the families and friends of veterans out there, thank you for your service.”
“As the field of heroes enters its third year, we make a pledge, not one that will fade as words, but one that will be remembered and marked in stone for generations to come.” – Michael A. Wanko
“This is great, so nice to be honored under the flag that represents the real heroes who never came back,” said former Mayor Richard Rutkowski, an Army veteran who served as First Lieutenant and infantry company commandeer at Fort Dix and Infantry Advisor in Iran.
Andrew Szyposzynski is an Army veteran who was stationed in South Korea and Germany when the Berlin Wall fell. He has been a social studies teacher at Bayonne High School since 2009.
“I think it’s amazing that the city and the board of ed has chose to have a ceremony like this and to educate students on their forebearers,” said Szyposzynski.
Jack Graham, an Air Force veteran in the Vietnam War, spent the majority of the 1960s in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. Graham later served as president of the Bayonne Youth Soccer Association.
Former Mayor James Donovan, a World War I veteran, was posthumously honored. Before serving as mayor from 1939-1943, Donovan served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military honor, as well as the French Croix De Guerre and the Italian War Cross for his service on European battlefields.
Donovan was instrumental in lobbying the U.S. government to build the Military Ocean Terminal Base and leading the anti-Hague movement in the 1940s to prevent Bayonne from becoming a part of Jersey City.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org