Bayonne’s “Field of Heroes” ceremony saw its fourth celebration on Nov. 11, during which several veterans, officials, educators, and others honored Bayonne residents who’ve served in the military.
Veteran’s Day was first celebrated here in 2016. As part of Bayonne’s Field of Heroes event, hundreds of small American flags are posted on the front lawn of Bayonne High School. Each represents a past or present member of the U.S. military.
Funds raised by the flag donations go toward Bayonne’s VFW Post 226, which hosts a well-respected military museum where guest speakers, mostly local vets, tour a vast collection of relics from every U.S.-involved war and share their stories.
The names of four veterans are engraved on the stone at the base of a flagpole in front of the school. Students join the rest of the community in the Bayonne High School auditorium to hear from guest speakers about what Veteran’s Day means to them.
This year’s keynote speaker was U.S. Army Major Bryan Jones, of the 101st Airborne Division, based in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Jones’s career began in 2001, as an infantry officer who was deployed to Kuwait in 2003 during the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq. Today, he is an Executive Operations Officer at the Army base in Ft. Campbell.
Jones reflected on his experience with the Army officers he works with today.
“Amid this veneration, I suppose it’s natural to some degree to wax nostalgic and long for bygone eras,” he said. “It is commonplace for older generations to bemoan the current crop. While all else might be going to the proverbial hell in a handbasket, the heart and soul of the American foot soldier remains intact and inviolable.”
Jones said that the “torch” he carries is that of a former fellow West Point student, U.S. Army Captain John Hallett, who was killed at age 30 by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2009.
“Whether you wear a uniform or not, I challenge each and every one of you to find your own torch to carry, and to serve, and to be part of something bigger than yourself,” Jones said, addressing the students in the room. “Like Captain John Hallett, I want you to be a man or a woman for others.”
This year’s honorees
This year, four Bayonne natives were honored in the Veteran’s Day ceremony, two of whom received their awards posthumously. This year’s honorees were:
Theodore “Ted” Garelick (Army); Jon Christopher Jacobson (Army); Barry David Jones (Army); and Cornelius Carroll, Jr. (Navy).
Jacobson, a lifelong Bayonne resident, joined ROTC while attending St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. After graduating, he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and was killed after spending three months in combat during the Vietnam War.
Carroll served in two tours, during World War II and the Korean War. As a well-known political figure in Hudson County and Bayonne, he served as Chief of Staff to four members of the U.S. Congress, prior to becoming a Hudson County freeholder.
Jones served as a member of the Military Police during the Vietnam era. Today, he is mostly known for his service as a VFW leader and other community organizations. He’s received awards, including the Stanley J. Kopchinski Community Service Award, and the Bayonne Youth Center’s Community Service Award. Jones is a member of the VFW’s governing body for all of Hudson County, and has held several other leadership positions with the organization over the years.
Other dignitaries in attendance were Rep. Donald Payne, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, several Bayonne council members, and members of the Bayonne Board of Education.
The Bayonne High School Marching Band and Chorus provided musical accompaniment to the ceremony. Several first responders made up the color guard.