Princeton commemorates lives lost and honors service members during annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony.
“My focus today is on those who endured tremendous hardship that came about because of the global war on terror; however, this is nothing new when we look back at our armed forces from the Gulf War to World War I to the Revolutionary War and the sacrifices those generations made,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Gunther, Princeton’s Memorial Day parade grand marshal.
Gunther’s remarks on the steps of Monument Hall in Princeton, came as he described the meaning of Memorial Day at Princeton’s Memorial Day ceremony and parade on May 28.
He is a green beret, U.S. Army ranger and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia.
“There is not a day that doesn’t go by that I do not think about Sgt. 1st Class (SFC) Chad Gonsalves, Senior Airmen Adam Servais, SFC David Nunez, SFC Christian Long, Staff Sgt. Erica Bond, Sgt. Alberto Montrond, Staff Sgt. Clint Newman …,’ Gunther added. “Their commitment to being a part of that 1% of Americans, who swore an allegiance to the constitution and their country shall never be forgotten. Ensuring that their lives live on and that their stories are forever told is what Memorial Day means to me.”
Memorial Day took place on May 30 and was originally called Decoration Day. The annual national holiday is designed to remember service members of America’s armed forces who died while serving the country.
Princeton’s Memorial Day parade and ceremony, sponsored by the Spirit of Princeton, honored and recognized those men and women during its annual parade and ceremony.
“Let us hope that people do remember the sacrifice a lot of people made for our country and that is why we have this national holiday,” Princeton Mayor Mark Freda said. “Seeing so many people out here today reinforces your faith in the American people and American values.”
Children and families waved American flags along Nassau Street, the Princeton Police Department and Fire Department flashed their red and blue lights, and the MacGregor Pipe Band played bagpipes during the one-mile parade from Nassau Street and Princeton Avenue towards Monument Hall.
The parade and ceremony returned to Princeton following a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think it is important to get that sense of community back and having the Memorial Day parade, thank you Spirit of Princeton,” Freda added. “Look at everyone who has been involved with today’s Memorial Day events and it says ‘hey our community is here.’ When you walked down Nassau Street today with people responding to the band and military vehicles, you really get a sense that a lot is right with our country. Even though there is a lot that we need to address, there is a lot of good and it was on display today.”
Participants in the parade included marching from the Trenton Central High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), and Colonial Musketeers Fife and Drums Corps, and driving from the Crescent Shrine Mini Car Unit, Westrick Music Academy Girlchoir, Burlington City Marching Band, and Princeton Boy Scout Troop 43 on Nassau Street.
“I have recently become a U.S. citizen in the last three weeks,” Princeton resident Ian Weir said. “The timing is very special with Memorial Day and special to me. The parade means a great deal because it epitomizes what people have given up for the country.”
Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Weir added that Memorial Day symbolizes what people have done for him personally.
“Enjoying the freedom and American privileges,” he said. “I think this stands out in terms of a special day to celebrate the freedoms I enjoy. I hope people take time to reflect on the sacrifices made to secure our freedoms.”
When the parade reached the end of Nassau Street towards Monument Hall residents, who gathered on the sidewalks of Nassau Street, made their way to a brief ceremony held on the steps of Monument Hall.
After hearing remarks from Spirit of Princeton Co-Chairs Kam Amirzafar and Freda, along with featured speaker Gunther, a wreath was carried and placed in front of Princeton Battle Monument.
Residents and veterans turned around to face an American flag flying on a pole next to the monument as a performance of “Taps” concluded the ceremony.
“This is a time to honor the people that are out here serving our country and putting their lives on the line,” Princeton resident Matteo Constantine said. “It is a time to support everyone and unite as a community and then as a greater whole as a country. It is a great step for our community to get back out here. I hope people takeaway a sense of hope.”