Remarks of Mayor Alberto G. Santos:
Commander Capitti, veterans and guests, today it is my honor to join you in recognizing the 90th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion Joseph Edwin Frobisher, Jr. Post 99 in the Town of Kearny. The American Legion was chartered by Congress shortly after the end of World War I, in 1919, as a patriotic veterans organization comprised of members sharing a common bond of having served our country with honor during war, and who, after completing their service in uniform, dedicate themselves to continued service in their communities across the country. Just two years later, in 1921, Post 99 was founded in Kearny, and a permanent home was established at this location on Belgrove Drive in the 1930’s – a location with a special historical significance to our town’s veterans. The founders named Post 99 in honor of a Kearny resident, Joseph E. Frobisher, who was killed in action in France in 1918, at the age of 23, and who was buried in his hometown at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny.
Continued service to our nation and community has been the mission of Post 99 since its founding. For the past nine decades, the members of this Post have made great contributions to our community, from its early years when they directed a house to house campaign to raise funds for the World War I monument at Military Park on Kearny Avenue, to just 5 years ago when members of this Post helped raise funds for the refurbishment of the long-forgotten Civil War soldier statue that was stored at the National Guard Armory in West Orange. Today, the Civil War Soldier Statue proudly stands guard at the entrance to this Post.
Continued service to our community has been shown over and over again by the members of Post 99. The Post is an outstanding sponsor of youth programs including American Legion Baseball, one of the most successful amateur athletic programs in the country. Post 99 members participate and lead in patriotic events in our town, including hosting a Memorial Day open house for the community, placing wreaths at the numerous veterans’ monument and plaque memorials throughout town, placing United States flags at veterans’ graves at Kearny’s Arlington Cemetery and maintaining a program for the retirement of unusable United States flags. This Post has also established an annual recognition program honoring outstanding police and fire personnel in the Town of Kearny.
Post 99’s mission of continued service also includes steadfast dedication to fellow United States veterans and current service members. Members of this Post regularly assist local veterans, visit the VA hospital and organize events in this hall for veterans with special needs. In so many ways, the members of this Post have given generously of their time and resources, contributing tremendously to the betterment of our community, and making a difference in countless lives.
The members of this Post are an integral part of our community. They continue a longstanding, fundamental relationship that the residents of the Town of Kearny have had throughout its history with veterans of the armed services, a relationship that goes back to the creation of this town in 1867 and its namesake, the Civil War General Philip Kearny who lived not far from here on Belgrove Drive.
I began my remarks by noting that this location has a special historical significance with our town’s veterans. At this very location and on what is now Veterans Field across the street once stood the New Jersey Home for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors, which provided housing for veterans of the Civil War and Spanish-American War. The facility consisted of ten buildings here on Belgrove Drive, between Bergen Avenue and Afton Street, and from Brighton Avenue to the Passaic River. It is estimated that 25,000 Civil War veterans had lived here from the opening of the facility in 1888 to its closure in 1932, when thirteen surviving Union veterans were transferred and most of the buildings were demolished and deeded to the town for park purposes.
The Kearny Public Library’s collection of historical materials relating to the Soldier’s Home reminds us that, for the years that the Soldiers’ Home was open, it was common to see veterans, here on Belgrove Drive, talking with local citizens, especially children, and sharing their heroic tales of the battles of Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, as well as memories of President Lincoln, General Ulysses Grant, Major General Philip Sheridan and our namesake General Philip Kearny. Those heroic stories of war and valor echo today. They have been continued on this sacred ground by Post 99’s members and Kearny veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Through their service during war, from Antietam in 1862 to Tora Bora and Kandahar in 2010, and through their continued service to our community and in support of fellow veterans and members of the United States armed services, our veterans and Post 99 remind us of every veteran’s sacrifice in defense of our freedoms, our democracy and our nation.
Let me conclude by recognizing and commending the leadership and membership of Joseph E. Frobisher, Jr. Post 99, including Commander Anthony Capitti, and past Commanders, for your absolute commitment in service of our country and community, and by thanking you for your contributions and sacrifices. I extend my heartfelt congratulations on your 90th anniversary and my sincerest best wishes for your continued success. Thank you.