By Elaine Van Develde
“Many of those who were drafted into war many years ago were only seniors in high school. They were so young, their faces looked like dough,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said, explaining the significance of what is dubbed the Doughboy Statue that stands at Memorial Park.
It’s where the Veterans Day ceremony in the borough took place on Tuesday. It’s also where some of those once dough-faced soldiers, now wearing the passage of time and life experience on their faces and in their eyes, gathered to pay tribute to fellow vets, those who have passed, those killed in the line of duty and those still in service.
They gathered in both Fair Haven and Rumson.
In Fair Haven, World War II vet Warner White, recipient of the Purple Heart award and Combat Infantry Badge, made his way up to the mic to speak of his time on the Atlantic French Coast at Utah Beach (D plus 94) and the Battle of the Bulge.
A native of Ohio, White has made Fair Haven his home since 1962.
Modest, as many World War II vets are, White quipped, “Ya see this picture of me here (pointing to the program). They make it look like I’m saluting. I really wasn’t. I was just combing my hair.”
He spoke of his experiences and all listened intently, including the very young, doughy-faced students in attendance.
Also recognized were a couple of the oldest living World War II vets in the audience: Ray Taylor, who served in Korea as well, and Oscar Hille, of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Also still living in Fair Haven, Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect has learned, is 97-year-old World War II vet, Ken Curchin.
In Rumson, special recognition was paid to Jack Donovan Fowler, who was a First Lieutenant in the 7th Armored Division of the Battle of the Bulge.
Captain Daniel J. Edwards was the “presiding officer of the day” for the ceremony and Captain Mike Lilley, of the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke. Lilley, a Rumson resident, is executive director of Better Education for Kids, Inc.
All are the faces of service to the country. There were many thank-you’s and handshakes Tuesday morning. And Mayor Lucarelli called for that and more consideration to be a constant.
“In war there are and (have been) so many casualties and lives lost … Many who served and return have wounds that cannot be seen, such as post traumatic stress disorder and brain trauma …
“If you see a vet, thank a vet. If you see a vet and it seems like he’s having a hard time, understand. Go up to him and comfort him if you can.”
The casualties of the wars …
• World War I, 115,000 lives lost;
• World War II, 405,000 lives lost;
• Korean War, 36,000 lives lost;
• Vietnam, 50,000;
• Persian Gulf conflicts, 7,000.