PHOTO: Memorial for Revolutionary war soldier, James Morris.
LEONARDO, NJ - Ten students from MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, led by members of the Atlantic Highlands American Legion Post 141, posted close to 400 American flags on the graves of American veterans Saturday at Bayview Cemetery, in preparation for observances for Memorial Day. The cadets participated in a ritual which has been ongoing by members of the local American Legion post for decades, honoring military members from all wars in an annual Memorial Day tribute.
PHOTO: from left: Carlee Dunn, Daniel Korobko, Hannah Gruspier, John Lavelle, Cassondra Runko, Sara Fitzgerald, Stephen Fisher, Cali Nederer, Sandra Dadda, Sarah Gudelis, in front of MOH monument
Contingents of cadets will also be marching in the Memorial Day parades in both Freehold and Atlantic Highlands on Monday.
Working in the rain, MAST cadets carried American flags to the graves of all the veterans, replacing tattered and worn flags with new ones, and storing the worn flags back for proper disposal.
Cadets at Saturday’s community service said they felt proud and honored to be part of the annual ritual, which was a first experience for each of them. Sandra Dadda of Freehold echoed the sentiments of each of the cadets when she said she volunteered for the service because she wanted to honor those who had given service to their country. Hannah Gruspier of Middletown, a freshman at MAST, and junior Sara Fitzgerald both said they were surprised to see graves of soldiers who had fought in American wars from the Revolution to Vietnam. They also noted that while many graves appear to be well kept, others appear not to have been visited over long periods. Cadets said they were moved when reading the names, military ranks and branches and war service of so many men and women.
Sophomore John Lavelle of Middletown said he was inspired by the service he and the other cadets had performed, because it made them all realize how many men and women have fought for the nation, and “this helps to make you recall all of their service and thank them for it.”
Accompanying the cadets and showing them the procedures for locating the graves and placing the flags were MAST Senior Naval Science Instructor CDR Tracie Smith-Yeoman USN (ret), Post members Herbert E Kaiser, Rumson, David Carr and Steve Borracchia, as well as William and Kim Cleerdin and Jane Frotton, all of Atlantic Highlands. Frotton, a former borough council member, and widow of former Post Commander Bernard Frotton, who is also interred at Bayview, said she and her husband had participated in the annual ceremony for many years.
CDR Smith-Yeoman, a native of Highlands, placed the flag at the tombstone of a former neighbor, Robert M. ‘Buddy’ Waters, a former Post Commandeer at the American Legion Post 143, Highlands.
“It is an honor to place flags on the graves of these heroes, because whether they served in war or not, they were all willing to give their lives for our country and they deserve to be remembered and revered. And as a veteran, it is very humbling to see these young patriots pay their respects to those who have served,” said CDR Smith-Yeoman.
Legion Post Commander Peter Doyle, who was unable to attend due to a prior family commitment, said "The Atlantic Highlands American Legion is very grateful for the cadets and CDR Smith-Yeoman , who helped the veterans put flags on the tombstones of fellow veterans. Getting up early on a dreary Saturday morning to honor veterans is a tribute to the cadets themselves and their families. It is obvious in addition to MAST, families have imparted in each of these young volunteers the virtues and importance of the freedoms we have won and which have been maintained by those who have served."
MAST members participating included Juniors Sarah Gudelis, Sara Fitzgerald, Cassondra Runko, and Stephen Fisher, sophomores Carlee Dunn and John Lavelle, and freshmen Sandra Dadda, Hannah Gruspier, and Cali Neiderer.
Bayview Cemetery was first established in 1889 when a number of residents from Navesink, Leonardville and Chapel Hill formed the Bay View Land Improvement Company to acquire 52 acres of land for the Bay View Cemetery Association.
Kneeling, in front, Sarah Gudelis, Cassondra Runko, Cali Nederer (Cadet Korobko is not in this photo)
Although his remains were not interred at Bayview, a memorial at the entrance to the cemetery honors Medal of Honor recipient Fred S. Hay, also known as Frederick H. Schwabe, a sergeant in the Army during the Indian Wars of 1850. Another memorial honors Revolutionary War soldier James Morris who was captured by the British in 1777 at Navesink Highlands while serving with the NJ Continental Line.
MAST is one of Monmouth County Vocational School District’s five career academies. All 290 students at MAST are required to participate in the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, a citizenship development program that strives to promote leadership, discipline, patriotism, and community service.