Veterans in Wreaths Across America ceremonies

Veterans in Wreaths Across America ceremonies

  •  Updated 

WASHINGTON TWP. — Long Valley continued its annual tradition of honoring its veterans by laying wreaths on their gravesites as part of Wreaths Across America on Saturday, Dec. 16.

After a ceremony at noon, at the Parish Hall at St. Mark the Evangelist on Spring Street, volunteers fanned out to the five cemeteries in Long Valley to place 383 wreaths on the graves of veterans. It is the eighth year that the town has joined in on a national remembrance of veterans and their sacrifices.

“It’s a great tradition,’’ said Committeeman Kenneth Short, who was also an Army reservist. “I was watching television this morning and they had Arlington (Cemetery) on showing tens of thousands of sites out there with the wreaths on them. It’s a thankfulness to the people who have served.

“It gives that little distinction, that little special thing on the holidays. It’s very emotional to me. It is a great program to have going.’’

The event has been sponsored the last few years by the Long Valley Knights of Columbus.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to get involved and recognize the veterans,’’ Long Valley Knights of Columbus Trustee Michael Lennon said. “It feels like there is a greater sense of patriotism. Their involvement is picking up.’’

Wreaths Across America was brought to the township eight years ago by Sarah Guida as part of her Girl Scout Gold Star initiative. After she left for college at Virginia Tech, the act of continuing it gained support through Township officials, Police Chief Jeffrey Almer, the Long Valley Knights of Columbus and the American Veterans Association of Washington Township 1776 (AVAWT).

“When they first did the project they were in the 200 range (for wreaths) said Mayor Matthew Murello. “Every year they find more graves and identify more veterans. It’s not that we are losing more veterans. We are identifying more of the older ones. This town cherishes our veterans.’’

Wreaths Across America was initiated in 1992, when Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, found his business had a surplus of wreaths and arranged for extra wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery.

The practice soon became an annual tribute. It went on quietly for 13 years. In 2005, a photograph of the rows and rows of graves at the national cemetery adorned with snow-covered wreaths circulated on the Internet. It drew so much attention that Wreaths Across America was created in 2007.

The event has become special not only for those remembering the veterans in their lives but those who have served.

“I think it is just recognition of the sacrifice a lot of veterans have made for the country,’’ Long Valley resident and Army Veteran Paul Richartz said. “People appreciate that so they come out and the support us. Particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice.’’

On Saturday, thousands of people nationwide attended ceremonies and planted wreaths. Long Valley’s ceremony included a bagpipe performance by Mary Wood Russell, the National Anthem sung by Maggie Schaffer, an invocation by chaplain Tim Kelly, remarks from Lennon, Thomas McBride, the commander of American Veterans Association Post 1776 and Mayor Murrelo.

Ceremonial wreaths were placed by members representing the different branches of the Armed Forces: Korean War Veteran Don Cable for the Navy, John Krayniak for the Army, Washington Township Police Officer Frank Giaquinto for the Marines, Lucy Cohn for the Coast Guard, John Wierbrowski for the Air Force, Charles Van Stone for the Merchant Marines, John Jones for the Space Force.

Navy veteran Larry Oppel placed a wreath in remembrance of West Morris Central graduate Larry Maysey of the Air Force who is Missing in Action in Laos.

Army veteran Charlie Dauchert placed a wreath in remembrance of Richard Lacey his friend and unit member who is MIA in Vietnam.

Dan Bigos of the Knights of Columbus played Taps. Wreaths Across America Chairs Lennon, Bernie Schettino and Frank Barnes gave instruction on wreath placement. Then the volunteers left to place wreaths which were provided at the cemeteries.

There are five major cemeteries in Long Valley where war veterans are buried, the German Valley Cemetery on Coleman Road, the Middle Valley Cemetery at West Mill Road and Beacon Hill Road, the Our Lady of the Mountain Cemetery on Schooley’s Mountain Road, the Pleasant Grove Cemetery on Califon Road and the Old Stone Union Hill Cemetery on Fairview Avenue. The Union Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of two Revolutionary War veterans.

At Our Lady of the Mountain cemetery, Denise Aussicker watched her 11-year-old son John place a wreath on World War II veteran Theodore Tucker’s grave, say his name out loud and give him a salute.

“I think its’s a great opportunity for him to learn and understand the veterans and show them respect,’’ Aussicker said. “I think all kids should get involved. I think it is a great program.’’

The Parvatharha family, who live not far from Our Lady of the Mountain, took the opportunity to make it a teaching moment for their children.

“I wanted to make sure that we were taking care of our veterans,’’ Sashi Parvatharha said.”I want them to understand the sacrifices people have made to keep us free.’’

Mark Kitchin

Wreaths Across America 2023

On Saturday December 16,2023 the Long Valley Knights of Columbus Council 10419  and the American Veterans Association Of Washington Twp. Post 1776 jointly held its annual Wreaths Across America celebration at St Marks Parish in Long Valley.  After the ceremony at St Marks member of the Long Valley Community went to several Township cemeteries and placed wreaths  on  350+ Veteran graves.



Washington Township earns state’s Community Award for its attention to Veterans

Washington Township earns state’s Community Award for its attention to Veterans

  • By MARK KITCHIN Staff Writer Observer-Tribune

Nov 15, 2023 Updated Nov 15, 2023

Washington Township Mayor Matt Murello and members of the American Veterans Association of Washington Township Post 1776 appeared at a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel to received the Governor’s “We Value Our Veterans” Community Award which was given to Washington Township. From left are Post Commander Thomas McBride, Lee Twomey, Murello, John Krayniak, Chuch Dauchet.

Photo by Matt Murello

WASHINGTON TWP. — Mayor Matt Murello and several members of the American Veterans Association of Washington Township (AVAWT) Post 1776 took part in a Veterans Day ceremony at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel Township on Saturday, Nov. 11.

A group of about 650 visitors saw Murello and the veterans presented with the Governor’s “We Value our Veterans” Community Award by New Jersey’s Secretary of State Tahesha Way and Brigadier Gen. Lisa J. Hou. The award was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The award was also sponsored by the State of New Jersey Military and Veterans Affairs Department. AVAWT Post 1776 Commander Thomas McBride attended the event along with Post members Chuck Dauchert, Ed Twomey and John Krayniak.

“This award shows our commitment to honoring and supporting our local veterans and their families,’’ Murello said.

Murello was notified of the award in the summertime but was unaware of the presentation at the public ceremony until recently. He said the township answered a list of questions regarding the relationship of veterans and the township and gathered the required number of points to earn the award.

“It’s an objective checklist,’’ Murello said. “Do we have and active veterans group? Do they participate in the community? Do we have events for them? Do we have special parking for them? Do we have a Senior Center? We met all of those requirements. “We were awarded it and I thought that was the end of it and then I was notified last month that on Veterans Day they have an annual celebration at the Veterans Memorial.

4 Veterans Honored In Long Valley With Quilts Of Valor

Four local veterans were recently honored and awarded Quilts of Valor at a ceremony in Long Valley on Tuesday.

article by Vianella Burns, long valley Patch Staff

Posted Wed, Nov 15, 2023 at 3:00 pm ET

Pictured left to right – Mark Vandling, Frank Giaquinto, John Larkin, Ed Twomey (Courtesy of Paul W. Richartz, Public Affairs Officer, American Veterans Association of Washington Township)

LONG VALLEY, NJ — In celebration of Veterans Day, four local veterans were recently honored and awarded Quilts of Valor, which are hand-made quilts designed to honor and comfort veterans touched by war.

The recipients included:

  • John Larkin, Navy Petty Officer Second Class, 1962–1966, served in Vietnam.
  • Frank Giaquinto, Marine Sergeant Frank Giaquinto, 2008–2012, who served in Afghanistan and who currently serves as a police officer in Long Valley
  • Edward Twomey, Army Sergeant 1966–1968, who served in Vietnam
  • Mark Vandling, Navy Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class, who served in Vietnam

Linda Oppel arranged and directed the Quilts of Valor ceremony; her husband Larry, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, was a former recipient.

The quilts were presented by Charles “Chuck” Dauchert, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam and was also a previous quilt recipient, and Tim Kelly, the Post 1776 Chaplain.

The event was hosted by the Fairmount Fire Company in Long Valley.

Bottom of Form

According to officials, the Quilts of Valor Foundation was founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, whose son was deployed to Iraq.

“In a dream, Catherine saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. She could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional void. Then, as if in a movie, she saw him wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being. The quilt had made this dramatic change,” the American Veterans Association of Washington Township said.

The message was simple: quilts equal healing. The Quilts of Valor Foundation has developed into a national organization that has provided approximately 350,000 quilts as of May 2023.

To learn more about the Quilts of Valor Foundation, click

The American Veterans Association of Washington Township (AVAWT) consists of military veterans who served during war and peace, with the purpose of keeping the contributions and history of veterans alive.

The organization meets at a variety of locations within Long Valley at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. The location of the next meeting can be found on the AVAWT website:

Veterans Visit Middle School (Observer-Tribune)

Members of the American Veterans Association Washington Township Post 1776 talked to students in Long Valley Middle School on Monday, Nov. 6 at the schools Media Center. From left are Larry Oppel, Ed Twomey, Tom Holden, John Krayniak, Charlie Dauchert, Commander Thomas McBride, John Larkin, John Groel and Don Cable. Brian McGuire is not pictured.

  •  Updated 

 WASHINGTON TWP. – Members of the American Veterans Association of Washington Township have grown accustomed to visiting the elementary schools around Veterans Day during the past few years.

However, their trip to the Long Valley Middle School on Monday, Nov. 6 provided a bit of a twist.

Veterans and 1776 Post members Larry Oppel, Charlie Dauchet, Thomas McBride, Thomas Holden, John Krayniak, Ed Twomey, John Larkin, John Groel, Brian McGuire and Don Cable attended the event that was neither a flag raising ceremony nor a lengthy assembly at the school.

The 10 veterans spent about an hour having refreshments in the school’s media center and talking to the students face to face as they came up and asked them questions about their service.

After eighth grader Jocelyn Kulczyckyj sang the national anthem, the veterans also watched a video the students helped put together in which they talked about what freedom and sacrifice means and what is the best part of being an American. They also thanked the veterans for their service.

There was also a Wall of Heroes displayed where the students showed off family members past and present who were members of the armed forces.

“This was a very moving event,’’ veteran John Groel said. “We love to talk to the kids and get their opinion and their feeling on what they think of the military because you never know today with kids.’’

Groel, who was in the Army reserves, also spent some time visiting his grandchildren Caitlyn and John Andolina and grandson Ryan Groel who attend the Middle School.

“I think it is a great idea that the schools instill that into the kids to make them realize what sacrifices everybody has made for what they have today,’’ Groel said.

Overall, it is a busy week for the veterans, leading up to Veterans Day which is celebrated on Saturday, Nov. 11. On Friday, Nov. 3, members were involved in a flag raising and a small assembly at Old Farmers Road School. On Tuesday, Nov. 7 they took part in flag raising ceremonies at the Benedict. A Cucinella School along with an assembly.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8 they had a similar morning talking to kids at Flocktown-Kossmann and Thursday, Nov. 9 the post held its own breakfast and meeting at the Valley Restaurant in Long Valley. Veterans Day itself on Nov. 11 is reserved for rest and reflection.

It is the first time in recent memory that the Long Valley Middle School (LVMS) has held an event with the veterans in the fall. They often have them in around May in an assembly near Memorial Day.

“Our Social Studies Department at LVMS, all grade levels, came together and discussed various ideas and ways that we can honor the veterans and also tried to make it a little bit different,” said eighth grade Social Studies teacher Rachel Thomas. “I know the other schools do the flag raising, which is a beautiful ceremony as well. Instead of doing that we just decided to incorporate some new ideas.’’

The four-minute video showed students answering questions such as what does freedom mean to you or what does sacrifice mean?

The Wall of Honor made of cardboard and paper and including photographs was a way of connecting the visiting veterans to members of the students’ families that made similar sacrifices. The wall included names, pictures and years of service of students relatives who served in the armed forces.

“The video the kids made was wonderful,’’ Navy veteran John Larkin said. “It was nice to see the wall. It brings the other kids parents into it and it puts it into perspective.’’

Larkin, who served in the Navy from 1962 to 1966, enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the students and the informality of the gathering in general.

“They asked a little bit of everything,’’ Larkin said. “What service were you in? Were you scared? How long were you at sea? Oh, you could go on land once in a while? Those kinds of questions. It was a lot of fun. Typical questions most of the kids have anywhere you go.

“It was totally informal which really made it wonderful. The kids talked to you and you could talk to the kids one-on-one. It made a lovely day for us.’’

Long Valley Middle School Principal Mark Ippolito thought the event benefited the students and said seeing some of the veterans come to visit also re-enforced a feeling of community for him.

“Several gentlemen who were here, were my coaches when I was a kid,’’ Ippolito said. “It was a real community event. Mr. (Chuck) Dauchert was one of my Little League coaches. I played soccer with Mr. (Ed) Twomey’s son. Mr. (John) Groel was my neighbor for a lot of years. It’s a unique thing for this community.’’

When asked the veterans agreed. They enjoyed the event and a sense of service as a connection within the community is something worth recognizing and celebrating.

“It’s important,’’ veteran John Krayniak said. “Especially the service to your country. I believe that if you have service to your country, you come back and you have that feeling of service to your community. I think that benefits us overall.’’


Flocktown School Veterans Day Celebration

On November 8, 2023 members of Post 1776 attended a Veterans Day celebration at  Flocktown School. We started the day with a flag raising in front of the school.  We were then were  invited inside for a wonderful breakfast and refreshments.   After enjoying are refreshments we sat down in the Library for a question and answer session with the Fifth grade students.

Cucinella School Veteran’s Day Celebration

On Tuesday November 7, 2023 members of Post 1776 attended a veteran’s day celebration at the Cucinella school in Long Valley.  A flag raising was held outside the school with the students  leading us in the pledge of allegiance  and who sang a couple of patriotic songs.

We then broke up into  three groups, and went into three different 5th grade classes for a question and answer  exchange.

The faculty  offered us a wonderful breakfast and refreshments too end the morning.