Veterans throughout South Jersey were given rounds of applause, handshakes and salutes Sunday at local ceremonies recognizing their service.
In Cape May Court House, a Coast Guard unit fired an honorary rifle volley at the Cape May County Veterans’ Cemetery, where small American flags mark the graves of approximately 5,000 interred there.
Atlantic County honored its veterans in a ceremony at the Meadowview Nursing Home in Northfield, where more than 30 veterans living there were applauded and given certificates.
Charles Adelizzi, Cape May County’s veteran interment officer, said Memorial Day remembers those who died while Veterans Day is a celebration of living.
Even among veterans, the tradition of observing these days is often passed down through previous generations.
Bob MacBride, a Wildwood Crest resident and Army veteran of Vietnam, said the day draws up feelings instilled in him by his relatives, including a grandfather who served in World War I.
“It is a proud feeling. It’s something I did and the recognition we originally got was not there. Now, everywhere you go, someone comes up to you and says, ‘Thank you.’ And it does make you feel good,” he said.
MacBride said he wants younger generations to pass these observances down too, although he hopes future ones will not know war.
“I hope they learn from us what it means to keep the tradition going on forever, for all veterans,” he said.
Veterans Day draws its roots from Nov. 11, 1918, the date widely considered the end of World War I and called Armistice Day. After World War II, it grew to incorporate all veterans.
Air Force veteran and Cape May County Freeholder Gerald Thornton’s grandfather was also a World War I veteran.
“When I was little boy, I remember on Memorial Day in Philadelphia my grandfather would give me a flag and I would walk along the front of the parade with my grandfather,” Thornton said. “I think a lot of families still teach those traditions that are important to our nation.”
Linda Boyle, a North Cape May, Lower Township, resident whose father served in the Coast Guard and died in 2002, watched the ceremony Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a tribute to my dad,” she said.
In Atlantic County, among those honored were Karoline Breder, 104, who served in the U.S. Army’s Women’s Corps, and the Rev. Norman Thomas, 94, also of the U.S. Army, who served in the 30th Infantry Division.
Thomas’ niece, Kathy Thomas-Carmen, of Egg Harbor Township, was one of nearly 100 people who came to see their friends and family honored. She said her uncle fought in the Battle of the Bulge and had been a minister at local churches until retiring recently.
“He just did anything he could to help anybody all these years,” she said.
Also being honored was Rupert Chase, a private first class in the U.S. Army who also happened to be Atlantic County Administrator Dennis Levinson’s uncle. Levinson was at the ceremony announcing the awards along with several other local elected leaders.
“Everybody is special every day, but on some days some people are a little more special than others,” Levinson said.
After the ceremony, Bea Holtz, president of the resident council at the nursing home, read a poem in honor of those who served.
“We salute every one of them, the noble and the brave,” she said. “The ones still with us here today, and the ones who are not.”