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Vets Honored At Bayonne’s
American Polish Veterans Mass
The American Polish Veterans of Bayonne, New Jersey held their 70th Memorial Day mass presided by Rev. Robert A. Pachana at Mount Carmel R.C. Church, 39 East 22nd Street in Bayonne on Sunday, May 25 at 9:30 AM. The ceremony began with prayers and the presentation of a wreath at the flag raising outside the rectory where there is a stone commemorating all deceased American Polish Veterans. A 3-gun salute followed, directed by parishioner John Zmyslowski. The color guard then led the veterans into church to “Marsz Pierwszy Brygady” (“March of the First Brigade”), a World War I march commemorating the refusal of allegiance to the German emperor by General Pilsudski’s first brigade. The march was later adopted by Polish legionnaires once Poland regained its independence in 1918 and traditionally was played at national events for years to come. Following prayers, at the command, “Present arms,” “Taps” was played as veterans placed a red and white rose floral memorial tribute at the World War II veterans plaque displayed near the altar of St. Stanislaus, which reads, “Requiescat in pace” (“May he rest in peace”). The plaque lists 106 parishioners who perished in action during World War II. Many of them had been members of Bayonne lodges of the Sons of Poland Fraternal Benefit Society.
Korean War veteran Paul Magda, American Polish Veterans commander for 23 years who organizes the event, reports that the corps is primarily a Mount Carmel organization and started under the direction of Msgr. Anthony Tralka with 12 members in June 1944 once soldiers were being discharged from Europe after D-Day. At its height, the American Polish Veterans numbered about 225 members, but today only about 6 remain, with veterans representing World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The legacies of Polish-American veterans live on in these dedicated members with this annual event. The group is also known for their charitable works. For one, they were the first organization to fund the current Mount Carmel Parish Center. Membership remains open to veterans of all wars. Sunday’s exercises were assisted by Sons of Poland members and parishioners of Mount Carmel Cindy and Gen Macon among other Sons of Poland members.
Members of the Bayonne Memorial Day Parade Committee joined in the ceremony as well, and all shared in reminiscences over coffee at the reception following the mass in the Parish Center. The Committee proudly boasts 12 veterans groups citywide including the American Polish Veterans, Joyce Herbert VFW Post 226 of the US, Flournoy-Gethers VFW Post 7470, Bayonne Post 19 American Legion, Our Lady of the Assumption Memorial CWV Post 1612, F. A. Mackenzie Post 165 American Legion, Msgr. Andrew L. Adzima CWV Post 621, Capt. P.J.E. Hogan D.A.V. Chapter #5, Marine Corps League Bayonne Detachment #191, Bayonne Post No 18 J.W.V. of the United States, Vietnam Veterans of America North Jersey Chapter 151, and the Korean War Veterans Association of Hudson County. Bayonne holds a parade each year on Memorial Day stepping off at 10:30 AM from 5th and Dodge Streets and marching up Broadway to the reviewing stand at 33rd Street. This year’s Grand Marshal was Korean War veteran Martin Wilk, age 85, Mount Carmel parishioner and member of the Marine Corp League. Over the weekend, the combined veterans groups paid tribute at each of Bayonne’s 9 war memorials.
During the homily at the mass, Father Robert reminded the congregation that Memorial Day began after the United States Civil War in 1868 as Decoration Day, which was inaugurated at Arlington National Cemetery when 5,000 citizens decorated 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers’ graves with flowers.
The Association of the Sons of Poland was established as a Fraternal Benefit Society in 1903 to provide death benefits for Polish-American families and to send financial help to relatives in Poland. At that time, the Sons of Poland continued assisting Poland during her most devastating years of war. As a result, the Association was recognized for being the most active organization in the Polish-American Community and was thus decorated by the Second Republic of Poland with the coveted Złoty Krzyż Zasługi (Gold Cross of Merit). Over the years, the Association has grown both in membership and financial stability while upholding the traditions of Polish heritage and patriotism. In 2004, the Sons of Poland Benevolent Foundation was established with the mission to support children’s charities at home and abroad in Poland. More information about the Sons of Poland can be found at www.sonsofpoland.org.
By Dayle VanderSande
Note: Dayle Vander Sande has been Music Director at Mount Carmel for 14 years and has served on the board of directors of the Association of the Sons of Poland also for 14 years.