Sparta honors its veterans

| 15 Nov 2017 | 04:10

— On Nov. 11, a cold, cloudless day, veterans, township officials and residents gathered at the VFW building on Main Street in Sparta to honor those who have served in the nation’s military.
The 2017 Sparta NJ Veterans Day ceremony was held, in part, in front of the VFW building, for the Pledge of Allegiance, the playing of the national anthem, the laying of wreaths at the township's memorial and the playing of Taps by a Civil War re-enactor.
The ceremony then moved indoors for speeches and, eventually, refreshments.
Pete Litchfield, the post commander and a Vietnam War veteran, welcomed all and gave opening remarks. Korean War veteran Martin Schweighardt gave the blessing.
Sparta Mayor Gil Gibbs thanked veterans for their service and the VFW for having the event. He tendered special thanks to Litchfield for both “renovating the building and rejuvenating the organization.”
“People should go out and talk with their neighbors and find out just who is a veteran in their neighborhood,” Gibbs said. “A lot of veterans don’t talk much about their service and people just don’t know. Often veterans don’t get much recognition when they come home.”
Gibbs spoke about his own father, who served in the Korean War, and who received little fanfare upon returning to the states.
“When I asked him what kind of ceremony he received when he returned home, he said ‘None,’” Gibbs said. “He said, ‘I kissed my wife and went back to work.’”
Gibbs emphasized that communities need to know and appreciate and thank the veterans among them. The mayor also had kind words for police officers, firefighters and other first responders.
“They are a lot like the military,” he said. “Facing danger, ready to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of it. We should all be thankful.”
Sparta attorney Dan Colfax, a retired Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps, made closing remarks. He said veterans should be honored and be proud whether they served in combat “or were fortunate enough to serve during a time of peace.”
“Each one gave the government a blank check covering everything, up to and including their lives,” Colfax said.
Colfax was in the service during the First Gulf War and saw action in Iraq in 2003 during the Second Gulf War. He went from speaking about the military defenders of our freedoms to the duty of citizens to do the same. He quoted Ben Franklin: “You have a republic, if you can keep it.”
“Being a citizen is not an easy job,” Colfax said. “It’s hard work. You can’t just take another’s opinion on issues, or just repeat what you hear from the talking heads on TV. You have to do your homework, think for yourself, come to your conclusions and act accordingly. As citizens we need to know what the challenges are that we are facing and we need to act by putting people in office who can meet those challenges.”