By Ejvind Boccolini
Long Valley officials, family members, and friends gathered on Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, to remember a Long Valley soldier and to dedicate a street in his name.
The street naming is in memory of Pfc. Vincent E. Fields, 25th Marines, 4th Division, 5th Marine Amphibious corps, Iwo Jima, March 6, 1945.
Mark Noyes, a Vietnam vet, played God Bless America on bagpipes, and Bob Nunn provided the Black River News with photos of the event.
Members of the Washington Township Police Department were part of the ceremony honoring Fields as well, as was Forrest “Woody” Burgener, of the Investigative Project on Terrorism; Company of Military Historians (West Point Chapter); Vietnam Veterans of America.
New Jersey State Senator Anthony Bucco also spoke at the ceremony, saying that “today is a day to remember all veterans.” He added that many soldiers made the “ultimate sacrifice” and lost their lives in the war.
“Everyday should be Veteran’s Day,” he noted.
In an interview before the ceremony, he said “words are great – but the deeds are what makes the difference.”
Bucco said it was an honor and a priveledge to pay tribute to Vincent Fields. He noted of Veteran’s Day, “It’s not just today, it’s everyday.”
He also said that some veterans are hungry, homeless, and need medical assistance. They need our response, he said. He also asked attendees not to forget about their service. Soldiers protected our nation and said of Fields that the “sacrifice he made was n the name of freedom.”
Pastor Kiesling, who also spoke at the event, said the gathering was to celebrate the lives of all who served in past and present. Fields “died fulfilling his call to duty.”
“Keep us and our nation in your care always,” he asked in his prayer.
Burgener said, Fields “had a family here in Long Valley,” and added that Fields is remembered as “quite a great fellow.”
Burgener noted that we are “very proud of him.” Fields was remembered as a “gracious,” “wonderful” and “smart” man who had an 18 month-old daughter when he left for war.
“God Bless all our veterans,” he said at the end of his remarks.
Mayor Ken Short, who also spoke at the ceremony, said “for those who travelled here today – thank you very much.”
He said it is also a “great honor” that earlier that day there was a flag-raising ceremony at Old Farmer’s School in Long Valley. He said it was a “moving ceremony” and said students collected goods to send over to troops currently serving overseas.
They made a proclamation to dedicate the roadway adjacent to Zion Lutheran Church, and name it PFC. Vincent E. Fields Drive.
Short said the men and women who serve our country ” deserve the highest degree” of honor, and noted that he pays respects to the men and women who “so faithfully and honorably served this country.”
Kathleen Fields Bressler, daughter of Vincent E. Fields, wrote a biographical account of her father’s life which read: “Vincent E. Fields was born on Aug. 3, 1921 at home on 8 East Maple Street, Long Valley. His mother Mabel Nunn was from Long Valley and his father, Mervin Jones Fields, was from Oldwick.
Vincent was born prematurely and it was uncertain whether he would live. But live he did.
He attended grammar school in Long Valley and then attended Hackettstown High School. He played violin from a very young age. He had poor vision and began wearing glasses in the first grade.
He met his future wife, June Parr, when she was visiting her cousins in Long Valley. Vincent and June were married on May 29th, 1942.
Vincent was employed by Wright Aeronautical in Paterson and because of his work there had his first two draft notices deferred. The Marines got Vincent on the third try and he was sent to Camp Lejeune for basic training.
As the war intensified the training was cut short and he was shipped out in October of 1944. His glasses had been broken at some point and had not been replaced and he could have delayed his deployment but, wanting to stay with his “outfit”, he was allowed to ship out.
His marine unit stopped over in Hawaii and were shipped out for the attack on Iwo Jima which began on February 19, 1945 and lasted until March 26. The marines suffered 26,000 casualties on Iwo Jima (19,200 wounded and 6,800 killed.) Vincent was killed in a night raid on March 6, 1945.
His commander on Iwo, who sent a letter to the family after Vincent’s death, shared that Vincent was heard to say that ‘he did not know why God had placed him here but he was glad he had lived a good Christian life.’ My mother said she thought he felt he would not be returning from the war.
Vincent is buried in the German Valley cemetery in Long Valley. Mr. Niper, a photographer from Hackettstown, saw Vincent’s grave on Iwo Jima and was present at the dedication of Fileds Hall in the Zion Church. As a young man Vincnt was active in the church and helped the steeple jack doing repairs. He even carved his initials on the belfy. He was good friends with the pastor’s sons and one Halloween, helped them overturn the pastor’s outhouse. Kathleen Fields Bressler, daughter, 18 months old in 1945.”
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