November 17, 2001

Today is a proud day for Middlesex County, because today we will dedicate our Memorial to all of the Middlesex County residents who have helped defend this country, as members of the Armed Forces, throughout our country's long and glorious history.

Two years ago, I proposed to my colleagues on the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders that we create a Veterans' Memorial to honor county Veterans of all wars, and serve as a monument to their courage, spirit, sacrifice, and commitment to the causes of peace and freedom. It is my hope that this monument will serve as a continuing reminder of what those Veterans, in all six of the Armed Services, have accomplished.

I would like to welcome all of the elected officials, my Freeholder colleagues, the members of the Veterans' Advisory Commission, the representatives of our many Veterans' groups, and all of the citizens who have come to help honor our Veterans both living and dead.

I would also like to welcome the band, color guard and drill team of the United States Coast Guard Training Center at Cape May, who have come all this way to help us celebrate this dedication. I would especially like to welcome Jack McGreevey, well known in the Veterans' community as a United States Marine Corps combat Veteran, who is here today representing his son, Governor-Elect Jim McGreevey.

This memorial to Veterans of all wars is probably unique in the United States and was designed as a place where those remembering our Veterans and their heroic deeds can come to reflect and contemplate and remember all that those Veterans suffered and accomplished.

This memorial is not intended as payment of the debt owed to our Veterans. That debt can never be fully paid. This memorial is intended only to be a tribute to their service, dedication and sacrifice, and to provide a reminder of that continuing debt.

Further, this memorial is not a monument to war, but to the courage and dedication and the self-sacrifice of our friends, neighbors, family members and loved ones who fought those wars. It should be a reminder of everything that our Veterans have endured and suffered and given up in the service of America.

It is important that we remember what they have done. Our World War II Veterans are passing away, across the country, at the rate of over 1,000 per day. The Korean War ended nearly 50 years ago. The Veterans of Viet Nam are nearing middle-age and even Operation Desert Storm occurred before many of today's school children were born. While these children are exposed every day to the present war on terrorism, it would be a crime if they were allowed to forget our earlier heroes, who freed America and then kept it free and then helped to bring freedom to the rest of the world.

It is our duty to ensure that the deeds of these heroes, our citizen soldiers, are never forgotten even when they are no longer with us. Even as we hope that our children and grandchildren will never need to experience the reality of war, it is fitting that we do what we must to ensure that our children remember those who fought and are fighting to make that hope possible.

This memorial is a monument to our Veterans, but it would never have been built without the support of the members of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, without the many, many hours of hard work done by the members of the Middlesex County Veterans' Advisory Commission, and without the skill and vision of Al Widmer, the architect who designed the memorial. We would not be able to enjoy this dedication ceremony today if it had not been for the conscientious and hard work of Deputy Freeholder Director Stephen J. "Pete" Dalina, Parks Director Ralph Albanir, and the staff of the Middlesex County Parks Department, who were laying sod and preparing the site for this ceremony as late as this morning.

I would also like to thank the many private citizens, businesses, and organizations, which made financial contributions for use in the creation of this monument, and, who have helped to make it a true community project.

Let me draw to a close, as I did at the groundbreaking for this memorial, with a quote from General Douglas MacArthur made during the Japanese Surrender ceremonies in 1945, "It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past - a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice."

Unfortunately, as the events of September 11 have taught us, there are those who would commit terrible and violent acts to oppose the creation of that better world. We must also look to this memorial to remind us of our constant need for brave and patriotic citizen soldiers, who will not shrink from sacrifice and danger, and the absence of loved ones, to protect us from these violent people and help to keep us free.

To those of you here, who have served to keep us safe and free, we say "thank you" and offer this memorial as a monument to all that you have done, and to our many servicemen and women serving overseas today, we say "thank you and Godspeed" and offer this memorial as a tribute to all that they are fighting to do.

It is because of what you have done, and because of what they are doing that, as Daniel Webster said, our country, like this memorial, can become, with the blessing of God, "a splendid monument of wisdom, of peace and of liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration forever."