RELEASE: Ahead of Independence Day, Gottheimer Recognizes North Jersey Veterans with Service Medals, Vietnam Veteran Pins — Working to Ensure Fifth District Vietnam-era Veterans Receive Service Pins

Jul 01, 2022
Press

Above: Gottheimer with Retired Marine Corps Captain Gerald Bucci.

RIDGEWOOD, NJ — Today, July 1, 2022, ahead of Independence Day, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) held a ceremony to recognize the heroic service of local North Jersey veterans and honor them with Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pins and long overdue replacement service medals. 

The Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pins were originally created to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Vietnam War by the Department of Defense, which named Commemorative Partners to deliver lapel pins to living Vietnam-era veterans. Gottheimer helped the Ridgewood American Legion Post 53 cut through red tape to obtain the service pins for our deserving veterans and worked with the Department of Defense to award replacement service medals that went missing.

Gottheimer announced that he will be working with veterans and organizations across the Fifth District to ensure that all living Vietnam-era veterans receive the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. 

To honor the seven veterans recognized today for their service, Gottheimer had American flags flown over the U.S. Capitol. 

Fifth District Vietnam-era veterans honored today include Retired Army Private First Class Joseph Burns of Ho-Ho-Kus, Retired Marine Corps Lance Corporal Raymond Litwitz of Ridgewood, Retired Army Commander Jerald J. Maksymowicz of Ridgewood, Retired Marine Corps Captain Gerald Bucci of Ridgewood, Retired Army Captain Wayne Lemme of Ramsey, Retired Army Specialist 4th Class Jack Marcasiano of Ridgewood, and Retired Army Specialist 5 Donald Gordon Myles. Carol Maksymowicz accepted the pin on behalf of her husband Jerald, who unfortunately could not attend, and Stan Myles accepted the replacement medals being posthumously presented to his father, Donald Myles. American Legion Post 53 Commander Bob Paoli accepted pins on behalf of Wayne Lemme and Jack Marcasiano.

“To all the veterans here, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service, for your courage, for your patriotism, your selflessness, for putting your lives on the line to defend our freedom, our families, and the greatest democracy the world has ever known. Please know this — after sacrificing so much, you should never struggle to get the care or recognition you have earned. These are not Democratic or Republican issues — they are principles of the country we live in, the one you protected, under the flag we all salute,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “The seven veterans we are recognizing today with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pins and long-overdue service medals exemplify our nation’s best, and we owe them a great deal of gratitude for their service and sacrifice. They did not swear an oath to a political party. They swore an oath to defend our country, and to our constitution – the very foundation of our democracy. They understood that our diversity is our greatest strength. That we should always put country ahead of party.”

“Veterans are a very small segment of our society, but a very important part of our society. We’re able to meet here today because of veterans. It doesn’t matter what you did as a veteran. It doesn’t matter. Everybody did their duty and everybody sacrificed and gave service to their country,” said American Legion Post 53 Commander Bob Paoli. “We live today in a society freely because of the veterans sacrificing themselves and continue to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  

Gottheimer was joined today at the Ridgewood Public Library by American Legion Post 53 Commander Bob Paoli, Ridgewood Mayor Susan Knudsen, Bergen County Commissioner Ramon Hache, Bergen County Commissioner Mary Amoroso, Bergen County Commissioner Germaine Ortiz, Bergen County Commissioner Tom Sullivan, Director of Bergen County Veterans Services Shaun Hutchinson, and local veteran Chris Wyman. 

Watch the ceremony here.

Below: Gottheimer joined by local officials to present Vietnam-era veterans with medals and pins.

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Below: Gottheimer presenting a Purple Heart to Stan Myles who is accepting the medal posthumously for his father, Retired Army Special 5th Class Donald Myles.

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Below: Gottheimer with Stan Myles.

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Below: Gottheimer with Retired Marine Corps Lance Corporal Raymond Litwitz.

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Below: Gottheimer with Retired Army Private First Class Joseph Burns.

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Below: Gottheimer with Carol Maksymowicz.

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Below: Gottheimer with Retired Marine Corps Captain Gerald Bucci.

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Below: Gottheimer with American Legion Post 53 Commander Bob Paoli.

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Veterans’ biographies below:

Retired Army Specialist 5 Donald Gordon Myles — medals accepted posthumously by his son Stan Myles:

Retired Specialist 5 Donald Gordon Myles was born in Canada, but his family moved to Hackensack where Donald went to middle school. Later, they relocated to Paramus, and then to Oakland, where Donald graduated from Indian Hills High School in 1967. He grew up in North Jersey and answered his call to serve shortly after finishing high school. Donald was a part of the 1st Air Cavalry Division and joined his Division in Vietnam shortly after marrying his wife. His division first arrived in South Vietnam in 1965, helping relieve the U.S. Marines at The Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Unfortunately, over the years, the many medals Donald received went missing, but after Gottheimer worked for months with the National Archives and the military — he was able to unite his son with them. On behalf of his father’s selfless years of service, Stan was presented with his father’s medals, including the Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device, Expert Badge with Rifle Bar, and Marksman Badge with Grenade Bar.

Retired Marine Corps Lance Corporal, Raymond Litwitz, Received Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin:

Retired Lance Corporal Raymond Litwitz is a lifelong North Jersey resident born in Passaic and grew up in Fair Lawn before moving to Ridgewood later on. Raymond’s father was a World War II Paratrooper, so his own great patriotism and pride for our country is no surprise. Soon after graduating from high school, he joined the Marine Corps and was deployed in Vietnam for 12 months and 27 days. During his first three months, he served as a Mortarman before volunteering to be a part of a Combined Action Group — a twelve-man platoon that worked alongside South Vietnamese soldiers and was critical to gaining control of key points near and along the heavily-contested demilitarized zone. Every day his platoon worked 24 hours a day, regularly without sleep. For his service, Raymond has already been recognized with the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal – 1 star, Vietnam Campaign Medal with device, Combat Action Ribbon, and the Rifle Sharpshooter 6 Badge.

Retired Army Private First Class, Joseph Burns — received Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin:

Retired Private First Class Joseph Burns moved to Teaneck when he was just four years old and met his wife, Beth, at his high school in Dumont. They’ve been married for 64 years. Now he lives in Ho-Ho-Kus where he has resided since 1966. Joseph served our nation from 1959 to 1961, in Missouri at Fort Leonard Wood — where his daughter, Gayle, was born. He first served as an Engineer Battalion, constructing roads and airfields, then Joseph’s second assignment was with a Replacement Company helping process the records of fellow soldiers returning home from war so the Army could determine their manpower.

Retired Army Commander Jerald J. Maksymowicz — received Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin:

Retired Commander Jerald Maksymowicz was born and raised in Jersey after his parents immigrated from Ukraine — he received his elementary, middle, and high school education in Ridgewood and still lives in the town. In 1964, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, but his path rapidly evolved during his time serving our nation. His training began at Fort Dix here in Jersey, where he originally began training to become a medic. But, by the time he was deployed abroad, Jerry had successfully graduated from dental technician training, Officer Candidate School, and chemical training. Jerry was first stationed in Germany as a part of the 81st Light Equipment Maintenance Company as an Executive Officer, before being transferred to Vietnam for three years, where he was the Commanding Officer of the 86th Chemical Detachment in Quang Tri. He took part in “sniffer” missions where he helped pinpoint enemy locations. When he returned home, Jerry finished college at Saint Peter’s University and received degrees in Math and Computer Science. Jerry served in the Army for twelve years and earned Two Bronze Stars, Eight Air Medals, and one Army Commendation Medal for Vietnam and another for his time in Europe.

Retired Marine Corps Captain Gerald Bucci — received Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin:

Retired Captain Gerald Bucci went to school in Ridgewood. In 1960, after graduating from high school, Gerald attended Brown University where he studied economics and was the co-captain of the football team. Then, in 1965, and as a recent college graduate, he joined the Marine Corps. Gerald served in Vietnam from April 1966 to August 1967, and, at the age of 25, he was a Captain and the Company Commander for the HQ Company in the 9th Engineering Battalion. He helped lead approximately 100 soldiers in building roads, airfields, and setting mines. After his service in the Marine Corps, Gerald attended graduate school at the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania and received a degree in marketing. He currently lives here in Ridgewood.

Retired Army Captain Wayne Lemme — received Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin:

Retired Captain Wayne Lemme was born in New Jersey and lives in Ramsey. He grew up heavily involved in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Eventually, after competing against 33,000 cadets and completing a four-week intensive course, Wayne was chosen to receive a private flying license at the age of just nineteen by the Civil Air Patrol — a nonprofit civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. While attending NYU, Wayne joined ROTC and was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation. By 1970, Wayne finished flight school and learned how to become a helicopter pilot, leading him to serve as a Combat Helicopter Pilot for the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. Wayne has more than 2,000 hours of flight time between his private license, active duty for the U.S. Army, and time spent in the reserves. He’s exceptionally distinguished, having received the Purple Heart, five Air Medals, a “V” for Valor Air Medal, Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals.

Retired Army Specialist 4th Class Jack Marcasciano — received Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin:

Retired Specialist 4th Class Jack Marcasiano answered his call to service in 1966, a year after graduating from high school. After completing his basic training at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, and becoming a Cryptographic Communications Specialist, he went to Fort Louis in Washington, where he was a part of the 208th Signal Company. Shortly after, he got his orders to go to Vietnam. He had a critical job helping decode messages from the Vietcong and North Vietnamese, providing valuable intelligence for American forces. After being honorably discharged in 1968, he returned home and got married to his wife Mary, who unfortunately passed away in 2008. Together, they had two kids Melissa and Anthony. Eventually, Jack left New York and decided to live in Lodi. In 2009, Jack married Bernadette and has since moved to Ridgewood with her, where they live now. They just celebrated their 11th anniversary! Jack is also a grandfather to Molly.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I want to begin with a moment of silence to remember the life of Marine veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams — the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II — who passed away on Wednesday, and to remember all veterans and active duty we’ve lost protecting our great country.  

To all the veterans here, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your service, for putting your lives on the line to defend our freedom, our families, and the greatest democracy the world has ever known. Please know this: after sacrificing so much, you should never struggle to get the care or recognition you have earned. These are not Democratic or Republican issues — they are principles of the country we live in, the one you protected, under the flag we all salute. 

Thank you everyone for coming together today to honor these heroes of our community. 

In a time fueled by hyper-partisan cable news and social media, where we reward fiery tweets and extreme language seeking to divide us, instead of celebrating bipartisan problem solving, it’s important to remember that our enemy is China and Russia, not one another.  That’s what built our great country and economy, and gave us our freedom – our life, our liberty, our happiness. Our brave veterans who risked their lives for those American ideals. They did not swear an oath to a political party. They swore an oath to defend our country, and to our constitution – the very foundation of our democracy. They understood that our diversity is our greatest strength. 

That we should always put country ahead of Party. We should salute our flag. And that’s what July 4th – Independence Day — is all about, and what we will celebrate this weekend. We must never take what we have for granted, and remember, that even as we perfect our union, we live in the greatest country the world has ever known.

The seven veterans we’re awarding Vietnam Veteran Pins and long-overdue service medals today exemplify our nation’s best, and we owe them a great deal of gratitude for their service and sacrifice. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense named Commemorative Partners to deliver this recognition to Vietnam-era veterans and I’m proud to have helped obtain these for our veterans here today. And by working with the military, I’m honored to be awarding the family of one veteran replacement medals.

It’s wonderful to see the community coming together to recognize these seven veterans who fought for all of us, and we’ll be working in the months ahead to ensure that all Vietnam era veterans receive this due recognition.

There is nothing more important in this job than my responsibility to have the backs of those who have served our great nation.  

To all veterans and active-duty service members, know this, after sacrificing so much, you should never struggle to get the care or recognition you have earned.

I’ve been proud to work, across the aisle in Congress, to care and protect our veterans — whether that’s at the VA, a mental health issue, or helping a veteran get a job when you come back home. That’s the least we can do.

The first piece of legislation I had passed in Congress was to expand hiring of post-9/11 veterans, and I’ve also led legislation signed into law to address veterans and National Guard suicide. As you know too well, staffing, and mental health issues continue to be an enormous challenge, but we’re making important progress.

Right now, along with members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which I Co-Chair, I’m working to get the bipartisan Honoring our PACT Act through Congress and to the President’s desk, to help veterans exposed to burn pits — covering veterans dating back to 1991 and Operation Desert Storm, and through our more recent post-9/11 conflicts. 

As part of the PACT Act, I introduced an important, bipartisan provision to examine and address the mental health impacts of burn pits for veterans. The Senate passed the PACT Act with my provision included, then we’ll vote on it in the House, and then it should head to the President to be signed into law.

Of course, our fight for our democracy and our veterans is far from over and I will never stop fighting for you. 

When we see a veteran, or a first responder, we should always thank them for their service — and ask our children to do the same. For what they did to allow our businesses and families to prosper, to practice the religion we choose, to speak out freely on the street corner. They deserve our respect and gratitude. We should remember every day the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice.

When you stand with and get to know our veterans, and hear their stories — some of which we’ll be sharing today — you get a better understanding of what they have sacrificed to protect our nation. As I said, the battlefield doesn’t require allegiance to party. It demands allegiance to country, to fundamental values, to the thirteen stripes and fifty stars.

For me, in my work as your congressman, it’s an honor and privilege to be able to thank and honor so many veterans across the Fifth District for their service, including the seven heroes here with us today.

It is our duty as Americans not only to honor these men and women — all soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen and women — but to do everything we can to fight for them when they return, to ensure they and their families have the care they need, the benefits they were promised, and the support we all owe them.

I want to impress upon everyone here that my door is always open for any issues that you may have.

As we close today’s celebration of our nation’s heroes, and celebrate our nation’s independence, I want to once again thank all of our veterans, service members, and their families for the sacrifices they’ve made so that we are able to live freely and safely. 

Here in the greatest country in the world, we will always take care of our own. That’s the only way to ensure that our best days will always be ahead of us.

God bless you, your families, and our troops, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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