By Mr. Eric Kowal (RDECOM)November 19, 2010
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - In honor of the Veterans Day holiday, the American Legion Post 344 of Rockaway Township properly disposed of and replaced tattered flags on Nov. 5 at the foot of each of the 135 memorial trees located here.
The memorial was created in 2007 by then-commanding general Brig. Gen. Paul Izzo. At the time, the trees were saplings, and the number of fallen New Jersey heroes to whom trees are dedicated was not as high as it is today.
A New Jersey Red Oak, the official state tree, is planted at Picatinny Arsenal in honor of each of the 135 Garden State heroes who have perished since Sept. 11, 2001.
"In my passing by the tree memorial during the duty day, I noticed flags were weathered and worn and not very attractive for the upcoming Veterans Day," said Richard Pienkos, recreational lodging manager here and a current member of the legion post.
Pienkos asked Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Herb Koehler if Post 344 veterans could re-flag all the trees and he approved. Pienkos contacted Morris County Veterans Service Officer Charles Jurgensen, who agreed to provide the flags.
Nine members of the Legion post, representing veterans of the Korean War, Vietnam War and current conflicts, volunteered to replace the flags.
"It was our honor, as veterans of previous wars, to decorate the memorial trees dedicated to our fallen warriors from New Jersey," Pienkos said.
"We will always be ready to re-flag the memorial trees as needed, as a small gesture for the ultimate sacrifice these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have made for our country."
New Jersey service members who died in 2010 will be memorialized in a private ceremony in May 2011.