The Bayonne Memorial Day Parade returned in 2022 to much fanfare from veterans, residents, and officials alike. Marchers made their way from 5th Street and Broadway all the way to 32nd Street, along the way honoring those from Bayonne who lost their lives in past wars.
A local tradition since 1918, his was the first time the parade occurred in three years. Lasting marching in 2019, COVID-19 restrictions precluded the event from moving forward in 2020 and 2021.
The parade was first organized by veterans’ posts established in the wake of the Spanish American War and World War I, and more recently maintained by World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans. However, many veterans have passed on, some even during COVID-19, leaving few to put together the parade and even fewer to march in it.
As a result, the parade was almost permanently cancelled until the city under Mayor James Davis’ direction took over the planning of the parade. Now the committee is now chaired by Supervisor of Recreation Pete Amadeo.
In 2022, the parade saw a number of elected officials in attendance, including: U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and his son 8th District congressional candidate Robert Menendez Jr., state Assemblywoman Angela McKnight and Assemblyman Will Sampson from the 31st Legislative District, as well as Mayor Davis and members of the Bayonne City Council among others. U.S. Navy veteran Mike Wilson was this year’s grand marshal, in a way making up for when he would have been grand marshal in 2020.
“Bayonne’s connection to our nation’s armed forces is legendary,” Davis said on Memorial Day. “Along with having three Medal of Honor recipients, thousands of Bayonne residents have served honorably throughout our history. Unfortunately, many of our friends, family, and neighbors have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms. Their names are hanging from streetlights up and down Broadway, so they are never forgotten!”
This year for Memorial Day, the city introduced a new program to remember Bayonne residents who lost their lives in World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, by hanging banners with their names along Broadway. The banners do not contain the lists of everyone who ever served in the military, however, Wilson and the Department of Public Works assembled a list of 191 names of Bayonne residents who were killed in action from the four aforementioned wars.
A local vendor placed those veteran names on 41 banners, which have been posted on Broadway coinciding with the parade route. Three of the banners bear the images of particular men who died in action: Chief Warrant Officer Douglas O’Neill, Lance Corporal Stanley Kopcinski, and Corporal Peter Edward Leddy.
The banners were posted in mid-May to honor the city’s war dead, and will remain in place over Broadway until mid-June, around the time of Flag Day on June 14. According to Davis, this will become an annual tradition much like the parade.
This year’s parade was a cheerful celebration of the lives of those from Bayonne who made the ultimate sacrifice. And with all of the things going on in the world right now, it also served as a solemn warning of the indescribable losses that come with war and the price veterans pay.
“Seeing Broadway lined with thousands of people to honor our heroes today was a very proud moment!” Davis said following the parade. “Now that I have moved the Memorial Day Parade into the Department of Recreation, under the leadership of Pete Amadeo, we will work with all our veterans to ensure this parade marches every year going forward, without fail! Bayonne will always honor our veterans! Thank you to all our veterans, and thank you to all who came out to support this parade!”
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