State dedicates World War II memorial in Trenton
By DEREK HARPER Statehouse Bureau, 609-292-4935
Published: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Press of Atlantic city
New Jersey veterans stand together as they attend the Veterans Day ceremony and dedication of the state's World War II Memorial across the street from the Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008, in Trenton.
TRENTON - George F. Medary was 25 when he joined the Army. That was 1943.
On Oct. 7, 1944, he stood on Morotai, an island in the South Pacific about 300 miles northwest of New Guinea and more than 15,700 miles from New Jersey.
And the world exploded.
"I got caught in a bombing raid," the Jackson Township man said. "At least I didn't die. One of my buddies did."
Now 90, Medary was one of about 1,500 people who stood Tuesday in the dimming light of an autumn afternoon on a closed-off West State Street here as military and government dignitaries unveiled the state's memorial to the people who fought in World War II.
"It brings back memories. I lost some friends there," Medary said. It's "something we've been looking for. It's about time it (opened). We were looking for it."
Medary, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart's Chapter 36 in Ocean County, said doctors grafted bone from his hip to his face to repair the damage he suffered. He spent the next three years moving from military hospital to hospital before being discharged in 1947.
State officials say more than 500,000 New Jersey residents served during World War II and about 90,000 of them still live here.
A state memorial to the world's bloodiest conflict had long been discussed. But the intervening years saw the dedication of Atlantic City's Korean War Memorial and a separate memorial to the Vietnam War, conflicts fought years after World War II.
New Jersey created the memorial commission in 1999, but plans lagged, and the initial $4.5 million budget rose to $7.6 million. Gov. Jon S. Corzine committed a year ago that it would be done by Veterans Day.
And so at 3:45 p.m., he and Major Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, commander of the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard, pulled down the red, white and blue banner and the audience saw the centerpiece: "Lady Victory," a 12-foot bronze sculpture on a 5-foot granite pedestal.
Speaking Tuesday, Corzine said he is proud to be in office when the memorial was completed. Now, he said, the thousands of fourth- and fifth-graders who stream through the Statehouse every year would also visit this park, directly across the street from the state Capitol.
Frank Cuccia, a veteran of the 13th Airborne Division, also presented the governor with an envelope containing the secret location and directions on opening two time capsules. The directions will be handed down from governors, to be opened in 2145, at the 200th anniversary of the war's conclusion.
Corzine also related the war's goal to the current war on terror. Almost 4,000 New Jersey National Guardsmen are now deployed, he said, the largest number since 1941.
Other speakers commemorated the soldiers, sailors, Marines and others who fought in the global conflict more than six decades ago.
"We must remember that Americans rose to greatness on the shoulders of our troops to preserve American peace and freedom," said Jack McGreevey, chairman of the memorial commission and father of former Gov. James E. McGreevey.
Arthur Seltzer raised a framed dollar bill that 36 other people in his unit signed before landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. At the end of fighting, he and his sergeant were the only survivors.
"I guess God was with us that day," Seltzer said.
He said people need to remember that the fight against fascism cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who served in the Army Signal Corps, recalled how it was "an ugly, united effort. Everyone was in it to make a difference."
But former Gov. Brendan Byrne, a decorated Army Air Corps pilot, said time may have passed but the memorial is a permanent reminder of the values for which it was fought.
"The war is a distant memory. It is a sentimental occasion I speak here," he said. "The war is gone, but the purposes we fought for are still being fought around the world."
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