James Harvey stood at the podium in front of Arthur L. Johnson High School - the sun in his face blocking out the more than 200 people in the crowd from view - holding a street sign for the newest street in Clark: Harvey Court.
Mayor Sal Bonaccorso handed Harvey the sign, named after his son, James Harvey II, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan last year. Harvey unwrapped the white tissue paper, looked at the sign and held it up to the sky, showing his son the fruits of his sacrifice.
"He would have said one word. 'Cool,'" Harvey told Patch. "He would have thought this was really cool."
As per town code, when a soldier from Clark dies in action, a street is named in their honor. And for this Memorial Day, the parade and new street highlighted Harvey's service for his country.
"Memorial Day has changed drastically for our family," Harvey said. "Even for me, even though I served in the military. Prior to his service, it was about the barbeque. Since then, it's truly a memorial for him."
As the sound of the sirens filled Westfield Avenue, the annual Memorial Day parade kicked off, featuring veterans and their families and members of the community, with a huge turnout from the Boys Scouts and Girls Scouts.
Clark residents lined the streets and applauded the parade participants who braved the hot weather for the half-hour long walk. Immediately following the parade was a ceremony to remind locals of the sacrifices of the servicemen who gave their lives in the line of duty.
"We have to always keep in mind what today is for," said Councilman Al Barr, who coordinated the parade. "It's for all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can be here."
"Of course we would rather have Sgt. Harvey here," said Bonacorso. "But he is a proud American who served his country, and we would like to let the Harvey family know that here in Clark Township, we thank him."
With the addition of Harvey, there have been 21 Clark residents who have fallen while on active duty. And each solider was recognized with a flag planted in front of ALJ, while their service was commemorated by Commander Bill Duffy, who led the parade.
After reading off each name, he took a deep breath and began Sgt. Harvey's biography, as his parents and sisters walked the flag to the memorial. Duffy, unable to read Harvey's last letter home, had a member of the Boy Scouts read it aloud.
In the letter, Harvey told his family not to be angry and that he chose to serve his country and did it well. He understood the risk, his father said, and "I am proud of him for what he did."
With his mother, Susan, blotting tears from her eyes, members of the ALJ Marching Band played Taps for her son - her son who she raised to be strong and serve his country.
Harvey was destined for the military, Duffy said, after he would wear his father's Vietnam War uniform around the house. He came to his parents one day to tell them he wanted to join the army. His father told him that he needs an education, but he wanted to join, and he was proud that he was following in his footsteps.
Even after his death, his father is still proud of the choices his son made.
"He told me he needed to do this, and I understood what he meant," he said. “I’m very proud of him.”
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