By Cheryl Conway
The founder of the Mt. Olive Memorial Day Parade and ceremony was recognized with an award Thursday, May 25, at the All-Veterans Memorial in Budd Lake during a special service.
Bill Sohl and eight other residents of Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home were invited to the 1 p.m. service to see the AVM. Sohl is one of original founding members who helped get the AVM off the ground 15 years ago.
“He has not seen it for years,” says AVM Founder Charlie Wood Uhrmann.
“Last January, founding AVM Member Linda Sohl recommended inviting residents from Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home,” explains Uhrmann. “Her husband Bill Sohl is a resident. She wanted Bill to see the newest additions, while sharing his accomplishments with his friends.”
Five Menlo employees also attended along with seven AVM supporters to greet and assist guests. A former Mt. Olive mayor who supported the AVM’s endeavors early on also attended.
“We were honored to have former Mt. Olive Mayor David Scapicchio present,” says Uhrmann. “Bill Sohl was appointed business administrator by Mayor Scapicchio. As BA, Bill Sohl assisted with the regulatory aspects in obtaining a Change of Use. Mayor Scapicchio did everything in his power to assure that the AVM was successful.”
Guests from the veteran’s home were greeted at 11:30 a.m. by Hazel Whalen who pinned a poppy on their lapels, explains Uhrmann. The residents were escorted to the large tent set up in the Prayer Garden, where they were treated to a catered lunch by Mama’s Café in Hackettstown.
“Our guests and the staff enjoyed the amazing food and peaceful landscape,” says Uhrmann. “After lunch, the residents were lined up at the NorthStar Seating Stage where we cited the “Pledge of Allegiance” and sang the “National Anthem.”
“One of our wheelchaired bound guests made a successful attempt (with assistance) to stand during the “National Anthem,” continues Uhrmann. “Most of them wept and saluted our nation’s flag. After our opening ceremony, the residents were wheeled to the War Horse Monument where I shared some background information. They were then wheeled down the Path To Enduring Freedom and parked in front of the War Dog Memorial, the Warrior Obelisk so on, so forth. It was the POW/MIA Remembrance Wall that appeared to have affected them the most. Many just wanted to sit quietly and stare at the murals and dog tags.
“It was at that point where many of them stated that it was the most impactful memorial they had ever visited,” says Uhrmann. They stayed until about 2:45 p.m. “None of our guests and/or their assistants wanted to leave.”
Seeing how successful this special first-time service was, Uhrmann says “I would embrace the opportunity to host this event again, if asked. Of course, it would need to be held during Military Appreciation Week.”