By Cheryl Conway
The All Veterans Memorial in Budd Lake will be the site to remember prisoners of war and those missing in action at a special 24 hour vigil planned for Friday, Sept. 21 and Saturday, Sept. 22, from 4 p.m. to 4 p.m.
In its inaugural year, the AVM Board of Directors will be hosting the National POW/MIA Recognition Day 24 Hour Vigil at the AVM at Turkey Brook Park in Budd Lake. They plan to unveil and dedicate the Remembrance Ceremonial Ground at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 21 and with that the POW/MIA Remembrance Wall that will feature an original hand-painted mural by a renowned artist.
“POW/MIA gives survivors a day to keep the memories of those they once knew or loved alive and to hold out hope that they would one day return to their homeland and families,” explains AVM Founder Charlie Uhrmann.
At the wall unveiling and dedication, the AVM “will lay the first Memorial Wreath and light the first Memorial Luminaries in honor of those who did not return,” explains Uhrmann.
The Mt. Olive High School JROTC AF will conduct the opening ceremony at 4 p.m. on Sept. 21 by presenting the Color Guard and ceremoniously setting the Table for One. They will also participate in the lighting of the POW/MIA Flame with the AVM Board of Directors.
“Immediately upon the lighting of the flame, various service members from across the state will stand watch to make sure the flame remains lit,” says Uhrmann. “This will last for 24 hours. Throughout the evening, service members will also be reading the names of warriors still missing in action.
“Different American Legion Posts from across N.J. may reserve hourly / 1/2 hour slots to serve in their own way. The Morris County American Legion will conduct the closing ceremony at 3 p.m. on Sept. 22.”
The vigil is open to the public, says Uhrmann. “Spectators may come and go as they please. The only thing we ask is that a solemn decorum is maintained.”
Uhrmann explains: “Throughout the 24 hour vigil, placement of memorial wreaths and luminaries will be ongoing. Luminaries will be available for purchase and can be set by visitors. The changing of service members standing watch will happen every 30 minutes. It is a formal ceremony.”
Donation To Animals
Visitors are also being asked to bring a donation for a non-profit no-kill shelter organization, Common Sense For Animals in Stewartsville, which provides care to animals requiring adoption and fostering.
“Visitors who bring a donation for Common Sense for Animals will receive a free Red Poppy Pin in honor of One life lived, One life lost,” explains Uhrmann.
Uhrmann decided to include the animal donation to recognize all the animals that are also MIA.
“One of the reasons I tied this in is because hundreds of thousands of dogs too have not returned,” she says. “I also felt that since people have crazy schedules and because we would have someone available for 24 hours this would be an excellent opportunity to collect items for CSA.”
As an animal lover herself, Uhrmann says the AVM “recently partnered with CSA this summer. We have provided two substantial donations and would like to continue to show our support. We are supporting CSA because of their involvement with veterans. And, because we love animals!”
The CSA is in “desperate need of financial donations,” food- particularly cans of cat food, and other items on their list such as towels, cleaning supplies and volunteers.
While CSA takes care of animals, it is also mindful of veterans, she says.
CSA provides therapy dogs for veterans at a discounted price and also helps to provide food and care to their animals.
“The POW/MIA REMEMBRANCE WALL acknowledges / links PTSD with POW as those who suffer of PTSD are in a way prisoners of war,” she explains, hence why therapy dogs come in handy to these veterans.
“We will set up a specific in-take tent,” says Uhrmann to collect donations for CSA. “I’ll do anything to help them. It was heart breaking to see all those precious animals.”
Wall To Feature Artist’s Mural
“We have a world renowned artist who has offered to paint a mural on the Remembrance Wall pro-bono,” says Uhrmann. “He will design a mural that will make it look like you are looking inside of a blown out building.”
Israeli artist Doron Viner from Worldwide Murals was planning to begin his work on the wall on Sept. 7 to be completed by its unveiling at the POW/MIA Vigil on Sept. 21.
“I was seeking something very memorable for the wall,” says Uhrmann. “A war torn building, while ok, it didn’t send the message I was seeking. So, I began looking for a muralist on line. I had several artists wanting to do the work, however, the passion in which Doron expressed peaked my interest. Lest did I know of his popularity around the world.”
Requiring lots of research and accuracy, “the mural will be in three panels or sections, explains Uhrmann. “Each section will replicate a prison cell. The first panel will feature a captured warrior. The second cell or freedom cell will represent everlasting life and hope and the third cell will feature a warrior reflecting what he left behind.”
The poppy’s will still be incorporated into the project, she says, however, “since we have decided to go with the mural, the poppies will run along ground at the base of the wall.”
The POW/MIA Remembrance Wall will provide “our service men and woman a formal ceremonial ground to not only honor POW/MIA warriors, but a place to hold a vigil for when a brother in arms pass,” says Uhrmann.
While the rendering will be a surprise at the unveiling, Uhrmann provides some insight into what she has in mind for the mural.
“The face of the POW will be the likeness of a Morris County veteran who was captured by the Germans,” says Uhrmann. “I had met him several years ago. He had not spoken about his capture and torture until we spoke. His children were hardly aware of his story. His wife and I shared several long and meaningful talks after his passing. She said that once her husband had broke silence, it was his desire to share the details of his demise with as many people as he could – so that part of history could be accurately passed on and remembered.
“I would say that I was very fortunate to have met him,” says Uhrmann. “One of his final wishes was that people would remember. I visited the family to seek their permission to use the features of their beloved’s face, as the face of POW warrior that will be painted in the mural; mentioning what he told me years ago. They agreed that would be something he would have wanted… so the image of the prisoner will have special meaning and ties to Morris County.”
Through 100 percent donations and her own financial means, Urhmann and the AVM have developed a memorial site in Mt. Olive with ceremonial grounds to honor, commemorate and reflect upon all those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and to even learn about American history.
She is most appreciative of Viner’s recent gesture.
“I was absolutely shocked and grateful at the same time,” says Uhrmann to create the mural. “Took me time to realize that he was offering his gift us a goodwill offering. I have no doubt that God brought us together. I have enjoyed working with Doron – he is an amazingly gift person.”
Next to come with the AVM will be The Prayer Garden.
“This will be done in the spring and will involve families of fallen warriors,” she says.