By Eric Kowal and Audra CallowayMay 24, 2010
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - During a ceremony here May 15, Picatinny Arsenal paid tribute to five New Jersey-connected service members who lost their lives in 2009 while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The installation dedicated five red oak trees in memory of the five service members, along with another tree for a service member who lost his life in 2006. The 129 service members previously honored in the memorial were also remembered.
The red oaks are part of Picatinny's tree memorial honoring all New Jersey-connected service members who died during the nation's overseas contingency operations.
The dedication began with a formal observance including remarks from Picatinny Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Herb Koehler and the Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen.
"One hundred and thirty-five brave men and women from New Jersey are all now memorialized here. A sobering number, but one that represents the collected sacrifice of the more than 5,000 American warriors who have passed in this most recent war so that we all may enjoy the freedoms that we have today," Koehler said.
Koehler also told the crowd that even though he was new to Picatinny, he was honored to be participating in the event. He also added that while preparing for the event, he realized that he had served with one of the fallen from 2007, Staff Sgt. John Linde.
"As citizens of our great nation, it's important that we all pay tribute to those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice, in recognizing some small measure of their noble service," Koehler said. "Today we do by dedicating six red oak saplings, the official tree of the Garden State. A tribute that represents the striking resilience of our great warriors and the might of the United States of America"
Koehler also spoke of the the memorial's importance to Picatinny employees.
"As they gaze across the field of trees, as they so often do since this memorial was created, they remember who they serve and why it is vitally important they continue their work of providing our warfighters with the best technology and equipment possible," he said.
Officials here unveiled the memorial in 2008, dedicating 119 red oaks to service members who had lost their lives through 2007. The tradition has continued and each successive spring, fallen service members from the previous year have been similarly honored.
The red oak, the official state tree of New Jersey, represents the selfless sacrifice the service members willingly made for their country.
This year the following Soldiers were recognized:
Spc. Brian M. Connelly, Union Beach, N.J.
Staff Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, Paterson, N.J.
Pvt. Bradley W. Iorio, Galloway, N.J.
Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Lobosco, Somerville, N.J.
Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, Villas, N.J.
The installation also remembered Cpl. Carlos M. Gonzalez who enlisted in New York and lost his life in 2006. He was recognized because of his New Jersey roots.
The ceremony concluded with a color guard and a bagpipe salute.