PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - (From left to right) Ryan Saalman, a contractor who currently works on Mortar Fire Control Systems here, retired Picatinny employee Donald Miller, Spec. Rudy Sarate, Picatinny Police Chief Bruce Gough and retired Picatinny employee Frank Costanzo.

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - "These are the times that try men's souls," said retired Army Col. Stephen G. Abel, state deputy commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, to more than 100 veterans from Passaic, Morris and Sussex counties who were recognized at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall in Rockaway Sept. 22.

The veterans were recognized for their service during major U.S. military conflicts to include World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the two ongoing overseas contingencies.

Abel said the famous quote by Thomas Paine, an 18th century journalist and philosopher, was read aloud to the Continental Army on a winter night in 1776 before the Battle of Trenton in a hope to boost morale.

"If it were not for publication of Paine's pamphlet we would not be here today recognizing these fine men and women, and we might be reciting 'All Hail the Queen' instead of the 'Pledge of Allegiance,'" said Abel.

Abel said there are approximately 8.7 million people living in N.J., of which 484,000 are veterans.

"We are traveling to one mall a month to make sure that citizens who served are aware of their entitlements," Abel said.

The ceremony was the kickoff for a three-day kiosk that the N.J. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs had set up in the shopping center.

"Twelve-thousand of that 484,000 who wore a uniform are unaware of any of the benefits that they may rate," Abel said.

He also noted that approximately 6,000 to 8,000 veterans in the state are homeless.

"We owe each of you more than just a payment from the VA and a medal to pin on your chest, but that's just a starting point," Abel said.

Of the approximately 100 veterans at the event, five had connections to Picatinny.

Picatinny Police Chief, Bruce Gough, received the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal along with retired Picatinny employees Frank Costanzo and Donald Miller.

Spec. Rudy Sarate received the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal for a recent deployment in Iraq. Sarate is a Picatinny housing resident is a currently a recruiter in Dover.

Ryan Saalman, a contractor with Universal Technical Resource Services Inc., currently works on Mortar Fire Control Systems here. Saalman received the New Jersey Meritorious Service Medal after four rotations to Afghanistan and two to Iraq.

Saalman is currently a staff sergeant with the N.J. National Guard.

During the ceremony, four Prisoner of War and Missing in Action medals were given to family members of servicemembers who did not return home. Abel said he has never given more than one or two at a ceremony so this ceremony will forever be engraved in his memory.

Page last updated Tue October 13th, 2009 at 12:25