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NEWS | May 30, 2023

Army Reserve honors fallen at New Jersey memorial ceremony

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris 99th Readiness Division

The Borough of Red Bank hosted its annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the historic Veterans’ Monument here.

Serving as keynote speaker was Col. Bill Putnam, commander of the U.S. Army Reserve’s Interrogation Group headquartered on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

“We need to remember the people whom this monument was built to honor – we need to remember the fallen,” said Putnam. “We need to remember those husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and aunts who did not come home.”

The event featured several musical performances, remarks by Mayor William Portman and other guests, and a roll call of recently deceased Red Bank military and Fire Department veterans.

“Life isn’t easy – we know this. It takes resilience and mental toughness,” said Putnam, who was part of Operation Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Operation Iraqi Freedom as a government contractor in support of the U.S. Army. “I ask that when you have those down times – and we all do – that you remember those people who gave all so that you can have the life that you have.

“I ask that in those moments, you remember them, and that you live the best possible life that you can – not just for you and your family, but for those who will never have the chance to be able to realize their dreams, goals and aspirations,” he added.

Also serving as keynote speaker was former Army Sgt. Gerard D. Sclafani, who served as an Army Ranger and drill sergeant in addition to completing two deployments to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I’ve had some experiences in my career where I’d be working out with friends and eating breakfast together, and – a few hours later – carrying their casket,” said Sclafani as his voiced cracked. “Today is not for people like me – it’s for them.”

First observed after the Civil War, Memorial Day was initially called “Decoration Day” because families gathered to remember their loved ones by decorating gravesites with flowers or flags. It is a tradition that continues across America to this day.

“It’s a day that many people celebrate as the unofficial start of summer – barbecues, beach trips – but none of that really matters,” said Putnam, a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal. “What matters today is the fact that each and every one of you are here right now, and you’re here for a reason – and that reason is remembrance.”