Morris County Pauses to Honor Veterans

Montville mother describes her son's recovery from horrific injuries to return to Marine unit at annual Memorial Day event in Morristown.

The worst visit that can happen for a parent of a Marine during wartime is a visit from two Marines in dress blues.

“That means your child is dead,” said Landi Simone of Montville, whose son, .

Instead, she said, she got a phone call from a Marine who asked if her husband was at home so they could all talk together.

Simone was the keynote speaker Wednesday at the Morris County  Memorial Day Service held on the lawn at the in Morristown, before several hundred onlookers.

The Freeholder board presented 13 Morris County Distinguished Military service medals to veterans at the event. Receiving the medals were Richard H. Barry of Hackettstown; William S. Blaher of Flemington; Keith G. Byard of Chatham; Lt. Col. Richard W. Eastman Jr., of Morristown; Sgt. Kevin Hilton of Florham Park; Joseph Leal of Morris Plains; Major Vinson Morris of Picatinny Arsenal; Lawrence E. Oppel of Long Valley; James B. Smith of Dover; Capt. Jermaine Dunham, Staff Sgt. David Stracener, Staff Sgt. Fredrick J. Wiedenmann and Lt. Col. Charles H. Koehler of Picatinny Arsenal.

The freeholders have presented over 9,000 such medals to veterans since 1999.

Simone said the explosion that injured her son required a series of operations to clear the infection that resulted in his receiving two prosthetic legs. "His injuries were horrific," she said.

But the injuries did not derail his military career, she said. Today, he is at Camp Lejeune, N.C. serving with the 2nd Marine Division.

“He is taking 3-mile hikes with 60 pound packs,” she said.

Simone said she and her family take great pride in the recovery of her son. Even though he was wounded, ”I’ll be able to dance with him at his wedding and babysit for my grandchildren.”

David Rand, acting Superior Court assignment judge, said that when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, he focuses on the phrase “liberty and justice for all.”

“Without liberty, there is no justice,” Rand said. “And we could not have justice without sacrifice of the men and women in our military services.”

Rev. Cindy Alloway of , said she comes from a military family, which has a son serving in the Coast Guard.

She said "Remembering those who have sacrificed for our freedom is only half of the task set before us. We should carry their love, honor and duty forward into the future by teaching our children about who they were, what they did and why they did it."

Freeholder Director William Chegwidden said it is right to gather on Memorial Day to “recall our fallen heroes who answered the call of duty.”

The service for the 13 veterans who received medals Wednesday did not end when they left the military, Chegwidden said. “Today they volunteer to help others, including other veterans,” he said.


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