Friday, June 1, 2012

Guest for Memorial Day


     After hearing how other towns have started to have welcome home parade for returning Veterans Bogota Blog NJ got in contact with Walter Croft of the American Legion. Mr Croft though it was a good idea, but he had already contacted the Navy about bringing some of the active duty personnel from Fleet Week to Bogota to be a part of the ceremonies. When it was confirmed that some members of the Armed  Forces would be allowed to come to town Bogota Blog NJ was invited to join in bring the guest to Bogota for a small town Memorial Day.
  On Monday 28-May I met Mr. Croft at Bogota High School and boarded the school bus, with Nick Zampetti for the trip into New York. We arrived at pier 92 and waited to met the personnel that would be coming. The first were the Marines from Charlie Company 1st Battalion  9th Marines. There was a bit of a wait for the next group to arrive so those who did not want to sit on a hot bus stayed outside, chatted ,or texted, on their phones, and talked among themselves.  We were told we had to wait for Sailors from USS Roosevelt to be cleared in order  leave their ship. When the next group arrive they were not the  personnel that was expected.  A detachment from one of the collation force would join the group going to Bogota.  These were 4th year Cadets from the Spanish Navy who have been training on the  four-masted schooner Juan Sebastian De Elcano. They and the Sailors  from USS Roosevelt all proceeded  onto the bus and   headed to New Jersey. It was a quiet ride out of New York, some getting a little more sleep, and others just looking out the windows.
   Arriving in Bogota some mentioned the type of house that could be seen, and some just shook the sleep out of their legs. As the approached Borough Hall the Fire Fighters who where there came and welcome the guest to town. hand shakes and smile greeted all parties as thank-you were shared. Former members of the Military found time to talk to the current ones about their experiences even in a different language. Then Andrew Gilbert was brought forward to be introduced to his future.  Mr. Gilbert has enlisted into the Marines after High School, so this was a chance for him to met and talk to others that have already earned the right to be called a Marine to find out what he will be looking forward to.
   The Bogota Fire Dept. held their remembrance ceremony first around the monuments in Borough Hall park. The Marines started to ask, at the same time the Fire Fighters offered  for them to join them in their service. All bowed their heads as Father Supple said a prayer to those members who have pass. Then a group photo took place around the POW/MIA Memorial. Then the ceremonies by the American Legion /VFW took place. The service men placed themselves with the towns people sharing the moment together in remembering those who have come before. During the service a wreath was placed at the POW/MIA monument by Kathy Fry. Ms.Fry was escorted by Marines Kevin Brakhage and Donald Brackin II. The final part of the morning was with Mr. Croft thanking all who came  to the ceremony, and also thank the Men, and Women who are currently serving, for their time to join in a small town's remembrance for those who have left. With that the audience cave the visitors to Bogota a round of applause for all they do. After the ceremony they went to the VFW hall for a lunch. There Bogota Blog NJ was able to sit and talk to a few of them on their thoughts of  what they do, and what they think of a day in New Jersey.
    Staff Sargent Hendk Tefera was born in Ethiopia his family emigrated to the U.S. when he was 15, first to California, but now he calls Columbus Ohio home. He was granted U.S. citizenship in 1999, then later that year enlisted into the Marine Corp. A chance to give back to the Country  that has helped him, and his family, have a safe and secure way of life. Other Marine are  Lance Corporal (LCpl) Kevin Brakhage from Flowery Branch Ga. LCpl James Wilkerson of  Ruston La. LCpl Donald  Rex Brackin II and LCpl Matthew Sanborn who now lives in Maine. SSgt Tefera & LCpl Sanborn have served the most time together having tours of duty in both Iraq, and Afghanistan. They had also done a tour in Haiti after the earthquake there. This type of service is one of the reason they still serve, it starts with the chance to help when needed no matter how tough a situation may be. And it continues as a way to be an Ambassador for the United States around the world. As another Marine said even on a "bad" day to put on the uniform, and help others is the best thing he could think of doing. That is a general theme with the men of the USMC they have parts that are not as glamorous as other, the "super" early mornings, the need to be inspected are seen as a part of the process in order to be some of " The Best of the Best " Some enjoy the fact that they can "blow things up" at time, but to do it so they will be able to handle the next situation they may face. When asked about being a part of the long history of the Marines all talked about being honored to be apart of that history, and to do their best to pass it on to the next Marine. No better example maybe LCpl Brackin a fifth generation Maine. A young man all of 18 sees and enjoys his place in the history of the USMC, but that of his family as well. A self describe "head strong man" knew he was always going to keep the family tradition of service. He recalls his parents questioning why he wanted to join, wanting a better life for their some, but he could think of nothing  better to do with it. His proudest moment as a Marine was on the day he earned the right to be called a Marine. On this day a recruit gets his " Eagle& Globe" (E&G) insignia to wear as a Marine. After the ceremony LCpl Brackin's father came up to him and traded E&G's with his son. Both men wear them to this day LCpl Brackin II on his dress cap. and his father every time he gets to see his son.
    Bogota Blog NJ also had a quick talk with some of the Men from the Spanish ship Juan Sebastian De Elcano. Midshipmen Borza DeLa Riva Ordiz  had been to the U.S. before, but in Norfolk Va. His is glad that he and his shipmates had a chance to come to New York, and then to travel into "America" is a good extra. He was delighted at the way the people of Bogota welcomed them to town , and how friendly they are to someone from so far away. He talked about the ceremony was a first for many of the men, and how touch they were by it. They feel honored that Bogota would share something like this with others.  
   SSgt Tefera also talked about the warmth he and his men felt all through the day. From the cheering of the crowds as they marched in the parade, to just spending a brief time talking with people one on one. SSgt Tefera admitted he, and others, got emotional at the simple elegance of the ceremony in front of Borough Hall. He would like to thank everyone the Marines meet that day, for sharing a part of their lives with them. He talked about wanting to return again next year, and thinking this is the America a lot of his men grew-up in, and is an honour to serve for.   

 Walter Croft (L) talking with SSgt Hendk Tefera

Marines boarding the bus

Midshipmen of Juan Sebastian De Elcano 

Passing through Bogota

Walking across Main St.

Current Marines meeting future Marine Andrew Gilbert 

Scott Woegen  talking about the POW/MIA monument

Current & former servicemen

Mike Sorrentino piping the Marine  Hymn

Enrigue showing his girlfriend Elena's photo

LCpl Wilkerson getting a special ride.


  1. Hello! I'm Elena, the girl in the photo of the hat to Enrique. Congratulations on the good work of your blog and thanks for the photo. My best wishes for the future. Greetings from Spain :)

    1. Hello Elena:
      My name is Stephen, I took the photo, and run this blog. I'm glad I was able to show you him from far away. Enjoy your time together when he returns.


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