Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Table of Contents
What’s Inside? 6
Michael Tarlavsky, US Army Celebrating the Life of The Tank
16 Clifton’s Honored Dead Those Who Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice
26 Richard Musicant, USMC Life After His Battlefield Death
32 Serving the Nation, Community Police & Firefighters in The Gulf War
52 Treating Gulf War Veterans The Clifton Arts Center presents ‘Urban Tribal,’ an art exhibit and sale by the sculptor and contemporary artist Dan Fenelon from May 4 to 28. Fusing Aztec, Aborigine, African, modernism and street art, the exhibit poses the question: are we still tribal at heart? The Clifton Arts Center is at Van Houten and Clifton Aves. Admission is $3. More details at cliftonnj.org.
CHS Grad on Kessler Research Team
56 Joseph Galofaro, US Navy WWII & The Greatest Generation
62 Celebrating Moms & Grams
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Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Story by Ihor Andruch Elina Tarlavsky Wallis said her late brother Michael Tarlavsky knew the photo on our cover would be published upon his death. It’s standard operating procedure for the Department of Defense to select an image in advance, and a chilling reminder of the reality of war, both for soldiers, and their loved ones. That photo, which appears on our cover this month, perfectly encapsulates who Tarlavsky was: an accomplished and determined leader, ready to put his life on the line for the United States, and for those who fought side by side with him. On August 12, 2004, US Army Special Forces Captain Michael Tarlavsky did just that. 6 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Rimma and Yury Tarlavsky with Michael and his sister, Elina. At left, the 1992 Mustang Swimming Team Captain.
According to the report from the Department of Defense, Tarlavsky’s unit, the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, came under small arms fire and a grenade attack in Najaf, Iraq. The 30 year old remains the only Clifton resident to die in the Iraq War. Tarlavsky was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. On May 10, Tarlavsky would have been 42 years old. Though it has been 12 years since he passed, family and friends still easily recall many happy memories of Tarlavsky. At Clifton High School, fellow Mustangs called him The Tank. Coaches and teachers remember him as a leader. Brother soldiers labeled him hardcore.
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Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Tarlavsky befriends a camel while in the desert and at right, Tarlavsky (center) posing with Lenny Santiago (left) and the late Matt Pellettere (right). This was the last picture taken with his two best friends.
His sister said he was loving, competitive and inspiring his entire life. “My brother drove people to achievement,” recalled Wallis, now 40. Standing 5 feet 7 inches tall and all muscle, Tarlavsky was a gentle, driven, bulldog of a man. In 2004, the Washington Post published an article about the late Cliftonite: “He wanted to become an Eagle Scout before he was 18, and he did. He wanted to be a star swimmer in high school, and he was. By the time he was 30, he had mastered rappelling, scuba diving, and triathlons — and became a husband, father and a member of the elite Special Forces. He was, a longtime friend said, like Superman.” His Mustang Life Tarlavsky was born in Latvia, and came to the United States with his family in 1979. They first settled in New Orleans, but with relatives living in and around northern New Jersey, the Tarlavsky family moved to Clifton in July 1986. That September, Michael Tarlavsky enrolled as a 7th grader at Christopher Columbus Middle School and joined the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton and quickly found a home on the Seahawks swim team. He also found another home when he joined Boys Scout Troop 15, which was then in Paterson, where he met his two best friends, Lenny Santiago and the late Matt Pellettere. 8 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
“He wasn’t long, thin and lanky like most swimmers,” recalled Santiago, who noted that Tarlavsky was already muscular even as a middle schooler. “He was just incredibly strong. He was an excellent athlete, especially in swimming considering he had the antiswimmer body.” That body seemed to work for Tarlavsky as he was a point man even as a teenager. “Matt and I cut high school and drove to West Point with Michael’s mother to go see him swim in a meet for the Junior Olympics in 1992,” Santiago continued. Maryanne Lyons Goodwin, who was Tarlavsky’s swim coach at CHS, said that her former pupil stood out at a young age due to his leadership and unwavering determination. “What a wonderful, wonderful boy. So energetic, so responsible,” explained Goodwin. “He would come to practice every day so he could improve himself and his team. He was a tremendous athlete. While he was relatively short, he was so fit and athletic. He was always the first one to practice and the last one to leave.” In 1990, Tarlavsky’s younger sister, Elina, entered high school and joined the team as a freshman. “He (my brother) drove an old Chrysler K station wagon, which he called the War Wagon while another swim team member drove a ‘hippie-like’ station wagon called the Dead-Mobile,” she recalled. “Together, they would have people pile into their cars and go to practice at the Garfield YMCA.”
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Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Tarlavsky’s son Joseph, honoring his father shortly after his passing at Arlington National Cemetery. Center, Tarlavsky and his wife, Tricia. Right, Tarlavsky, flexing, on a camping trip with the Boy Scout Troop 15 in 1988.
Santiago shared another funny memory of the War Wagon and his late friend. “One of the craziest things we did was when we were 17 years old, Michael, Matt, and I and went on a road trip to Tampa, FL to break up the wedding of one of our fellow Boy Scouts who was only 19 years old at the time,” he said. “Although we didn’t break up the wedding, we did make great memories. Coincidentally, the groom isn’t married to the woman anymore. On our ride home, we were pulled over in Georgia and again in New Jersey. When we were pulled over in New Jersey, we had fireworks in our car. Michael talked us out of a ticket and even getting the fireworks confiscated.” As a Student Former CHS Russian teacher Thomas Mullin said Tarlavsky—a native speaker of the Russian language— showed leadership skills from the first day they met. “Teachers have the ability to pick out the kids who will succeed versus those who don’t on the first day of class,” he explained. “He always contributed to the class in a positive way and was a pleasure to have in class. He was very personable, highly motivated, and disciplined, as was his sister.” Mullin was so touched by the death of his former student that in 2008 he went with his wife to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC to visit Tarlavsky’s grave. 10 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
“It’s not very often that a teacher can visit the grave of his student, especially in such a place. I was struck by the haunting beauty of the grave location, surrounded by some of America's greatest heroes,” Mullin recalled. “Now my student has joined them, forever enshrined in a pantheon of honor. It was a sad and ironic commentary and immediately his sacrifice became all the more relevant to me.” As a Classmate Classmate Ron Thompson, a camera operator for national news and entertainment companies, shared a story of meeting at the 10 year CHS reunion in 2002. “He walked into the event in full uniform so proud to be serving his country. He was excited for the journey ahead of him. He was being deployed shortly after the reunion. We exchanged a few words and reminisced about high school. I introduced him to my wife and he introduced us to his wife. It was a great time. My final image is of him standing at attention and giving me a salute,” said Thompson. “Mike was a great guy with a big heart and a big smile to match.” Fellow Mustang Judi Tamas Green recalled the day she found out that her former classmate was killed in action: “I remember opening the paper and reading the news. I was shocked and upset,” she said. “Everything Michael did at CHS, he did to perfection. Michael Tarlavsky was happy and never had a bad day.
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
“Even if he did,” Green continued, “you could never tell. The last time I saw him was at the CHS Class of 1992 10-year reunion on July 19, 2002. He introduced me to his wife and I introduced him to my husband, who works for the Lincoln Center Opera. We invited them to Lincoln Center the next day, as the Russian Ballet was in town. I didn’t think anything of it, but I received a phone call the next morning from him that he would take me up on the offer. It was July 20, 2002, they saw Swan Lake. My husband gave them a backstage tour, and Michael spoke Russian with stagehands from the ballet.” Captain Tarlavsky Focused on serving his nation, Tarlavsky attended Rutgers on ROTC and National Guard Scholarships after graduating from CHS in 1992, From a young age, family and friends say Tarlavsky knew that he wanted to join the military. After earning a degree in exercise science in 1996, he enlisted in the US Army as a Second Lieutenant and worked hard to become Captain and member of the 1st Battalion of the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, KY.
12 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
“He became an Army Ranger at a young age,” Wallis said of her brother. “I remember how chapped his hands were after he did the intensive rock climbing training.” Curt Cummings, Staff Sergeant US Army, Cold Steel ACO 2/5 Infantry, served with Tarlavsky, and recalled the late Cliftonite’s toughness—and how his enlisted crew tried to mess with him. “He loved to march up this road on Schofield Barracks called Kolekole Ave. in Honolulu. We added three huge rocks to his ruck sack when he wasn’t looking. I said, ‘Let’s see if he complains about the weight.’ He looked like he was sucking wind but never said one word,” laughed Cummings. “We got to the training area and he opened his ruck sack to see why it was so heavy. He found the rocks, and needless to say, he smoked us for being jokesters. We were his very first platoon in active duty. Tarlavsky was one hardcore dude.” Tarlavsky completed tours of duty in Korea, Hawaii, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 1996 and 1997, he served in the DMZ on the 38th parallel of the Korean peninsula. During this time Elina and Michael’s brother-sister bond grew stonger.
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
“When 9/11 attacks happened, he was training for his Green Beret. He graduated Special Forces training in November 2001 and most of his class were assigned to Afghanistan,” said Wallis. “He was also an integral part of the force due to his Russian language fluency.” While stationed in Hawaii in 2001, Tarlavsky met his future wife, Tricia Fernandez, also an Army Captain. Sharing a love for the outdoors including running and rock climbing, they married in February 2002. “When Michael told me about Tricia, I was overjoyed that he finally found someone who can keep up with him,” recalled Santiago. “On their first date, I think they went rock climbing.” Shortly after they exchanged vows, Tarlavsky was deployed to Afghanistan, and then to Iraq in 2003. Tarlavsky took a leave to be by his wife’s side for the birth of his son, Joseph Michael, Sept. 23, 2003. In July 2004, Tarlavsky was shipped back to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. While deployed, Tarlavsky kept in touch via instant messenger. However, during his second deployment in Iraq, Tarlavsky suddenly ceased contact for about a month, worrying his sister and wife. Wallis finally heard from him again shortly after her birthday in Aug. of 2004. She originally thought the communication may have come from his wife, Tricia, as she would sometimes pass on messages through his account when Tarlavsky was too busy. However, this time it was her brother, and the two spent some time catching up. They discussed the weather, and he told her it was too hot for him to hold his gun. Wallis told him that his son,
14 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Joey, started walking, and that soon he would be home to see many other first moments. However, Tarlavsky cut the conversation short because something was coming in from the satellites. A few hours later, on August 12, 2004, he was killed in action in Najaf, Iraq. His Legacy A decorated Captain, Tarlavsky received several medals during his eight years of service in the United States Army. Most notably, he was given the Silver Star, which is the third highest military award for valor presented to members of the US military for gallantry in action against an enemy. Tarlavsky was also awarded a Bronze Star, which is for heroic achievement and service in a combat zone. His Purple Heart, given to those wounded in battle, was given posthumously. News of Tarlavsky’s death shocked and saddened his many friends and family back in Clifton. Before a Veterans ceremony in Nov. 2004, a monument firm donated their services to add Tarlavsky’s name on the 40 foot War Memorial in Downtown Clifton. Like the 300 other names engraved on that marble monument, they are Clifton’s fallen heroes—young men who died while in service during America’s wars. With May marking Tarlavsky’s birthday and Memorial Day, it is a particularly tough month for his family, but they keep his spirit alive through memories. “I will always be proud of what my boy did for his country,” his father, Yury Tarlavsky, said upon his son’s death. And so will his adopted hometown of Clifton.
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
HONOR THE FALLEN
MONDAY, MAY 30
11am Services at War Monument, Main Memorial Park
Events to Attend
Sunday, May 29 • 7 pm - Volunteers decorate around War Monument in Main Memorial Park with American Flags
Monday, May 30 • 6 am - Avenue of Flags Set-up, City Hall • 8:15 am - Fire Dept. Service, Brighton Rd. • 9 am - Memorial Day Parade, Hepburn Rd. • 9:30 am - Allwood Memorial, Chelsea Park • 11 am - City Memorial Service, Main Memorial Park • Noon - Order of Purple Hearts, Clifton Library • 12:30 pm - Post 347, Main Ave, Clifton Rec Center • 2 pm - Athenia Veterans, Huron Ave. • 6 pm - Avenue of Flags Take Down at City Hall Call 973-470-5757 for info or to volunteer.
which means Tomahawk Jr. is trained and nationally certified in restorative water drying methods by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, also known as IICRC. 16 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
HONOR THE FALLEN
MONDAY, MAY 30
Starting below and organized by the war in which they served, we have again published the name of every Clifton man who died while in service to our nation.
World War One Louis Ablezer Andrew Blahut Timothy Condon John Crozier Orrie De Groot Olivo De Luca Italo De Mattia August De Rose Jurgen Dykstra Seraphin Fiori Ralph Gallasso Otto Geipel Mayo Giustina
Selling replicas of the original Flanders’ poppy originated in some of the allied countries immediately after the Armistice of WWI. Disabled veterans make these artificial flowers, and earn a small income after their work is sold by members of local veterans posts on Memorial Day. Peter Horoschak Emilio Lazzerin Joseph Liechty Jacob Morf, Jr. William Morf Edwin C. Peterson Robert H. Roat Alfred Sifferlen
James R. Stone Carmelo Uricchio Angelo Varetoni Michael Vernarec Cornelius Visbeck Ignatius Wusching Bertie Zanetti Otto B. Zanetti
Diamond Memorials 973-471-5008 • 800 Broad St., Clifton We’re Here to Discuss Your Needs Mon-Fri: 10 am- 4pm • Sat: 10 am-3 pm • Bronze Plaques • Monuments • Porcelain Photos • Benches • Mausoleums • Cemetery Lettering • Cremation Urns • Pet Urns Find our selection online!
diamondmemorialsinc.com 18 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Shook Funeral Home remains an elegant facility with three spacious chapels, a comfortable lounge and ample parking. Serving all faiths, Shook Funeral Home specializes in pre-need and at-need funeral arrangements, cremation services and memorial gatherings for all of Northern New Jersey. A funeral director is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to answer any questions or requests for service. Joseph M. Shook, Sr., Founder 1924 - 2008
Allow the Shook and Garretson families to honor your loved one with respect and dignity by calling
in your time of need.
Nancy Shook Garretson, President NJ Lic. No. 3657
Thomas J. Garretson, Director NJ Lic. No. 4988
Roy B. Garretson, Manager NJ Lic. No. 3550
Kevin V. White, Director NJ Lic. No. 4964 Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
HONOR THE FALLEN World War Two
MONDAY, MAY 30
Peter Pagnillo Harold Weeks William Weeks Salvatore Favata Herman Adams Edward Kostecki Charles Hooyman, Jr. Salvatore Michelli Richard Novak James Potter
Joseph Sperling Charles Peterson Thomas Donnellan Jerry Toth Frank Lennon Joseph Carboy Julius Weisfeld Edward Ladwik Israel Rabkin
The memory will live forever. Over the past year, we have had the privilege of serving the families of many veterans. In recognition of the service these veterans rendered to their country, we would like to show our appreciation this Memorial Day. In memory of their lives and their service, we recall...
• Louis S. Amico • Daniel Calligaro Jr. • Joseph S. Colca • Frank Grecco • Patrick Allan Idore • Neil C. Justesen Jr. • Michael Ksenich • Walter Marks • Arthur Mastrodonato
• Frank N. Mazzarisi • Robert Metzger • John B. Pampanin • Alvin Lee Payne • Joseph T. Ronga • Maurice Rossi • Theodore J. Stefaniszyn • Cipriano Zaccagnini
470 Colfax Ave., Clifton
973-249-6111 www.marroccos.com 20 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
James J. Marrocco Manager, NJ Lic No. 3320 Michael A. Waller - Director John Opuda Jr. - Director
Adam Liptak John Van Kirk Carlyle Malmstrom Francis Gormley Charles Stanchak Joseph Ladwik Karl Germelmann Robert Stevens Albert Tau William Scott Benjamin Puzio James Van Ness Gregory Jahn Nicholas Stanchak Frank Smith, Jr Carl Bredahl Donald Yahn Joseph Belli Edwin Kalinka Stanley Swift Charles Lotz Joseph Prebol Walter Nazar Benedict Vital Thaddeus Bukowski Leo Grossman Michael Kashey Stephen Messineo John Janek John Yanick Herbert Gibb William Nalesnik Joseph Sowma Bronislaus Pitak Harry Tamboer John Olear John Koropchak Joseph Nugent Steven Gombocs Thomas Gula Raymond Curley Harry Earnshaw
James Henry John Layton Charles Messineo Joseph Petruska Bogert Terpstra John Kotulick Peter Vroeginday Michael Sobol Donald Sang Andew Sanko George Zeim, Jr. Robert Van Liere Vernon Broseman Harold O’Keefe Edward Palffy Dennis Szabaday Lewis Cosmano Stanley Scott, Jr. Charles Hulyo, Jr. Arnold Hutton Frank Barth John Kanyo Bryce Leighty Joseph Bertneskie Samuel Bychek Louis Netto David Ward Edward Rembisz Lawrence Zanetti Alfred Jones Stephen Blondek John Bulyn Gerhard Kaden William Lawrence Robert Doherty Samuel Guglielmo Robert Parker Joseph Molson Stephen Kucha James De Biase Dominick Gianni Manuel Marcos Nicholas Palko William Slyboom
Herman Teubner Thomas Commiciotto Stephen Surgent Albert Bertneskie Charles Gash Peter Jacklin Peter Shraga,Jr. John Aspesi Micheal Ladyczka Edward Marchese Robert Stephan Roelof Holster, Jr. Alex Hossack
Siber Speer Frank Klimock Salvatore Procopio Harry Breen Gordon Tomea, Jr. Douglas Gleeson Fred Hazekamp Harold Roy Andrew Servas, Jr. Francis Alesso Walter Bobzin Vincent Lazzaro John Op’t Hof
SHERIFF RICHARD H. BERDNIK
My family and I... honor the service and legacy of America’s Veterans. - Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik Paid for by Berdnik for Sheriff
Clifton Merchant • May 2016
HONOR THE FALLEN World War Two Joseph Sondey John Zier Peter Hellrigel Steve Luka Arthur Vanden Bree Harold Baker Hans Fester Patrick Conklin John Thompson Thomas Dutton, Jr. Harold Ferris, Jr. Donald Freda Joseph Guerra Edward Hornbeck William Hromniak Stephen Petrilak Wayne Wells
Vincent Montalbano James Miles Louis Kloss Andrew Kacmarcik John Hallam Anthony Leanza William Sieper Sylvester Cancellieri George Worschak Frank Urrichio Andrew Marchincak Carl Anderson George Holmes Edward Stadtmauer Kermit Goss George Huemmer Alexander Yewko Emil Chaplin
View The Giblin Report Thursday at 9 pm Cablevision Ch. 76 & FIOS Ch. 40 Check with your Cable Provider for Other Listings
Proud to Represent Clifton Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin 1333 Broad St. • 973-779-3125
www.assemblymangiblin.com 22 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
MONDAY, MAY 30 John Hushler Edgar Coury Robert Hubinger Wilbur Lee Vito Venezia Joseph Russin Ernest Yedlick Charles Cannizzo Michael Barbero Joseph Palagano William Hadrys Joseph Hoffer, Jr. Joseph Piccolo John Robinson Frank Torkos Arthur Mayer Edward Jaskot George Russell
• Fruit & Flowering Trees • Shrubs & Mulch • Perennials & Annuals • Sod & Soil • Stone & Pavers
• Statues & Fountains • Patio Furniture • House Plants • Hanging Plants • and much more...
Clifton Merchant • May 2016
HONOR THE FALLEN World War Two Frank Groseibl Richard Van Vliet Benjamin Boyko Harry Carline Paul Domino John Fusiak Louis Ritz William Niader Alfred Aiple Mario Taverna Sebastian De Lotto Matthew Bartnowski John Bogert Joseph Collura Matthew Daniels James Doland, Jr. Walter Dolginko Peter Konapaka Alfred Masseroni Charles Merlo
MONDAY, MAY 30
Stephen Miskevich John Ptasienski Leo Schmidt Robert Teichman Louis Vuoncino
This photo of a Clifton sailor and his family is from 2007 but the Clifton tradition remains: services at 11 am on Memorial Day, Main Memorial Park.
1355 Broad St. • Clifton • 973-778-5566
www.immedicenter.com Dr. Michael Basista, Medical Director of Immedicenter Mon-Fri 8am to 9pm • Sat & Sun 8am to 5pm Walk-in Medical Care Weekday Appointments Available 24 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Richard Vecellio Robert Hegmann Ernest Triemer John Peterson Richard Vander Laan, Jr.
Stephan Kucha ‘Gigito’ Netto Michael J. Columbus
Korean War Donald Frost Ernest Haussler William Kuller Joseph Amato Herbert Demarest George Fornelius Edward Luisser Reynold Campbell Louis Le Ster Dennis Dyt Raymond Halendwany John Crawbuck Ernest Hagbery William Gould Edward Flanagan William Snyder Allen Hiller Arthur Grundman Donald Brannon
Vietnam War Alfred Pino Thomas Dando William Sipos Bohdan Kowal Robert Kruger, Jr. Bruce McFadyen Carrol Wilke Keith Perrelli William Zalewski Louis Grove Clifford Jones, Jr. George McClelland Richard Corcoran John Bilenski Donald Campbell James Strangeway, Jr. Donald Scott Howard Van Vliet Frank Moorman Robert Prete Guyler Tulp Nicholas Cerrato Edward Deitman
Richard Cyran Leszek Kulaczkowski William Malcolm Leonard Bird John France Stephen Stefaniak Jr.
Nov. 8, 1961 Plane Crash Robert De Vogel Vernon Griggs Robert Marositz Robert Rinaldi Raymond Shamberger Harold Skoglund Willis Van Ess, Jr.
Gulf War Michael Tarlavsky
Clifton Merchant • May 2016
Lying on a Battlefield Gurney, That’s a Prayer Book on Rich Musicant’s Chest. By Irene Jarosewich Combat medics running triage on the wounded had already put a “black tag” on him – the colored tag that was visual shorthand on the battlefield. Black tag meant no expectation of survival. Unconscious, losing blood, leg hanging on by a muscle thread – good as dead in the middle of the desert. With limited resources, someone with a better chance of survival would be helped first. Against all odds, Rich Musicant was brought in alive to a military hospital in Saudi Arabia. The Marine corporal, wounded in the Gulf War, then again beat the odds. “The best vascular surgeon in the Navy, Dr. Bill Walker operated on me. He saved my leg. He saved my life.” In the flash of a mortar burst on February 24, 1991, 26 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
in a “grubby, deserted oil field,” in Kuwait, almost four years since his decision, while still a senior in high school and a member of the JROTC, to enlist in the Marines, Musicant’s life had changed forever. “I’m not big on organized religion,” Musicant continues, “but there isn’t anybody who, after going through a battlefield experience like that and survived, doesn’t have some kind of belief in the Almighty.” Later Musicant, who was raised Jewish, was shown a photo of his unconscious body lying on the battlefield, a prayer book on his chest. “In the picture, praying over me is Chaplain Hall, quite the bad himself, a former Special Forces Captain in Vietnam. Kind of odd when the chaplain has more confirmed kills than his Marines,” he adds with a wry smile.
A conversation with Musicant reveals his gallows humor. On getting last rites from a Catholic chaplain, this non-practicing Jew offered this gem: “Sometimes it does not hurt to appeal to the other teams.”
The concussion from the blast hit me and slapped me to the ground like a giant invisible hand. I accidently squeezed the trigger of my rifle as I was going down, letting a three round burst fly. I hit the ground so hard that I actually bounced back up. I scrambled and tried to take another step. The adrenaline was surging and I still had no idea what had happened. It still hadn’t registered in the conscious part of my brain. My first thought was how everyone was going to laugh at me for falling down. Something told me to get up before anyone saw me fall or I’d get my balls broken about it by everyone later at some bar. My leg dragged behind me as I tried to take another step. I flailed my arms trying to regain my balance to no avail. I twisted in midair and fell over in a broken twisted heap on the ground. A wave of intense pressure washed over me. My body felt like it was trying to violently turn itself inside out.
The pressure spread out through my body trying to get out through my ears and eyes and even from under my fingernails. I felt a stinging, burning sensation on my exposed skin. My blood began to boil inside my body. The blast had sucked, or maybe knocked the air out of my lungs. I gasped for air. As I tried to gulp down a breath and re-inflate my lungs I breathed in the dust and hot air and the putrid sulfur death smell. I gagged and gasped again. There was a long moment where I was vaguely aware of how quiet it suddenly became. I opened my mouth and tried to scream. A pitiful moaning noise spilled out of my mouth. I tried to take another breath and scream out…nothing. What I didn’t realize was that I had been temporarily deafened by the blast. In reality, people would tell me later that they heard me screaming from a mile away.
“When we were in Kuwait, Chaplain Hall held onto the prayer book for me. He was afraid that if I was captured with it on me, the (enemy) would torture me. I am grateful to him. We stay in touch and I still have the prayer book. I carry it with me every time I fly.”
“Rehab was hard, the pain was excruciating. My left leg locked, could not bend. I had two hours of physical therapy, would take lunch, sob like a baby, followed by another two hours. I did not cry in combat, but I did in rehab. This misery went on for two years.” He has only praise for the treatment he received in the military hospitals. He is also grateful that he avoided over medication, a real risk for the seriously wounded and the road to addiction. His pain was controlled by site-specific nerve block medication. “I realized almost immediately how easy it could become to rely on the pain medication. I didn’t need pain relief throughout my entire body. I wanted to be off the drugs. Some of the wounded can’t. So ultimately, when they do heal, they are faced with another problem.”
Never Forget. Never Regret. Twenty-five years later, Musicant retains the muscular build of a Marine. He is proud of being a Marine and his fellow veterans remain a part of his daily life, in large part due to Facebook. “The men you serve with, they become like family.” However, in spring 1991, lying in rehab, having been brought to a military hospital in San Diego, he had no idea which way his life would go.
An excerpt from his book-in-progress:
My Life for My Country... The Price of Patriotism...
Clifton Merchant • May 2016
“Also, talking kept me out of depression,” he “When my government asked me to step up, continued. “Vets visited I delivered. When I needed my government me regularly. They said to step up, they failed,” said Musicant, ‘you must talk, and then talk, and then talk some adding “shot once in the leg, more — can’t keep it botshot once in the soul. I loved being tled up inside.’ Talk for an arson investigator, had done a good job, hours to get it out of your would have continued to do a good job.” system.” For a long time, he held out hope for a return to She told me at one point ‘it hurts me to see you run.’ full duty. “I had been planning for military career. That That was the key—I could not make the long distance was my dream. Until they told me that it was over.” run in time. I had a rod in my leg. In order to keep my Through two years of recovery, he held on to that balance, I flap my arms. It think it was scary for somehope only to have that hope dashed. “Maybe it was one to see me running. This is speculation on my part unrealistic, but hope is a powerful motivator. I was told as to why, but I believe it’s true – I was one of the oldthere was a chance. I believed in that chance. Had to est recruits, disabled, didn’t fit the mold. believe it. Maybe they say it to keep soldiers moving “Feltri said to me, although he denied it later during forward. It worked for me.” my hearing, ‘I don’t think you’ll be capable of doing “Up until that point, I was still thinking of myself as your job’ even though I had already been doing it, comnormal with a problem that was going to get solved. pleted 30 arson cases. Long distance running was not Then you have the AHA! moment that you, your life essential to my job. An exception could be made. I suswill not return to normal. That’s it. Gone forever. Your pect that they were afraid if something happened that it life is not normal and never will be again. No regrets, would be blamed on them, questions might arise why though. You just move on.” they allowed me to certify. “Or maybe they held a fundamental belief that the Return Home disabled couldn’t really be law enforcement officers or He returned to New Jersey, back to parents, family, do the job well. Or maybe I simply didn’t fit into their and friends and joined the Clifton Fire Department as a cookie-cutter notions – I will never know.” fire inspector. After several years, he moved on to the After a multi-year process that included the disapPassaic County Prosecutors Office as an arson investipearance of key paperwork, inconsistencies in procegator. Although he was not planning to be a police offidures – “at first they refused to make any accommodacer, he was in law enforcement. To stay on, he needed tions for me, then tried to strike a deal with me that they to obtain state police training certificate. He was sent to would accommodate me if I dropped the appeal. Well if the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Academy you didn’t think I could do it the first time, what makes in Bergen County. Events did not unroll as he hoped. you think I could do it the second time?” — the appeal “I don’t really know to this day what the problem ruling was not in his favor. was. I was a model recruit, passed all the written Along the way, he realized that he had gone about it exams, short distance running, a veteran. Academically all wrong. fine, conduct, experience, cleared by their own doctor, “I should have hired a lawyer from the beginning and twice.” threatened to sue everyone. But I had no money, so I did Yet Nancy Foz, his class instructor did not see it that it on my own. Filled out the forms, made the calls. Then way and neither did Dion Feltri, academy director. later everybody told me I was naive. No way that the “Foz had no law enforcement investigative experiacademy wanted to lose a complaint to a disabled ence. I could never figure out why she had it in for me. 28 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
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Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
vet, a Marine, no less. They would find a way to make it go away. I should have filed lawsuits and not internal appeals if I wanted to win.” However, with no law enforcement certification, he could not stay with the prosecutor’s office as an arson investigator. So, once again, he moved on. Although Musicant has moved on, he still has a bitter aftertaste from the academy experience. In his gut, he knows justice was not served. “When my government asked me to step up, I delivered. When I needed my government to step up, they failed,” adding “shot once in the leg, shot once in the soul. I loved being an arson investigator, had done a good job, would have continued to do a good job.” Will Not be Taken Down For nine years, he has been with United Water, now Suez Water N.A., as an environmental health and safety specialist. He is happy with his job as a road warrior, traveling in his territories that include Rhode Island, western New York and Delaware, instructing professionals on environmental contamination and reservoir water safety procedures. He is also a volunteer fire fighter and EMT when he is at home in Pompton Lakes, where he also spends time with his girlfriend, Rachel Kenny. On Feb. 19, 2016, almost 25 years to the day that it was put in, the stainless steel rod in his left leg that gave him stability was removed. The rod was never meant to stay in that long, but the scar tissue and muscle that had wrapped around it made removal dangerous until the advent of modern laser surgery. Musicant is relieved to be rid of the steel rod. Last year, Musicant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, maybe due to genetic causes, maybe as one of the consequences of the Gulf War. Those veterans have a 10 percent higher rate of incidents of neurological disorders than the general population. Musicant is taking this development in stride, even some attitude. “I honestly believe that the advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s will outpace my disease. I don’t have to live with Parkinson’s, it has to live with me and I’m no peach. Don’t feel bad for me, feel bad for Mr. Parkinson.” Despite some tough hands dealt to him in life, Musicant is a very upbeat guy. Again, no regrets. 30 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Musicant, with the medics who saved his life in 1991.
“This may sound crazy, but being wounded was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said last month. “You don’t realize what you’re capable of until you are completely challenged – a trial by fire. We all fear failure, fear we won’t make it when tested. I was tested and did not fail.” Considering his near death experience, Musicant doesn’t know why he beat the odds. Maybe to finish a book that he has been writing for the past 15 years. “It started out as a therapeutic tool. Now I see it more as a tribute to the combat medics who save the wounded on battlefields, as a tribute to those who serve. The working title of the book, if I ever finish it, is My Life for My Country... The Price of Patriotism. The overall theme of the book is how we, as veterans, give a part of our lives in service to our country. Whether you never heard a shot fired, or were a SEAL that won the Medal of Honor, we all make sacrifices for America. When you serve, you give up your life, When you sign, you’re committed. Fully understanding, fully appreciating that commitment, that sacrifice is the price of patriotism, what gives it value.”
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Stories by Joe Hawrylko and Ihor Andruch While Michael Tarlavsky never came home alive and Rich Musicant came home in pieces, many of our Clifton Policemen and Firefighters served in the Gulf and returned home safely. While some did their active duty time and moved on, many are reservists and still take an active role in protecting our nation. Several of those Policemen and Firefighters shared stories about their experiences and are told in the following pages of our magazine. While we could not write about each of them, the list of all current Clifton Policemen and Firefighters who served in the Gulf followsâ€” Clifton Police: Bashar Balkar, US Marine Corps; Michael Bienkowski, US Army; Thomas Buell, US Navy; Mark Centurione, US Army; Randy Colondres, US Army; William Frank, US Marine Corps; John Kavakich, US Navy; Frank Loran, US Army; Esly Panduro, US Army; Joel Smith, US Navy; Peter Turano, US Marine Corps; Wilfredo Valentin, US Navy. 32 May 2016 â€˘ Clifton Merchant
Clifton Fire: Robert Barone, US Marine Corps; Bret Blake, US Army; Miguel Cortes, US Navy; Christopher Divver, US Navy; John C. Dubravsky, US Navy; Patrick Hollenback, US Navy; Raymond Koch, US Army; Kenneth Olsen, US Marine Corps. The Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm began on Aug. 2, 1990 when Iraqi forces overtook Kuwait. Air strikes against Iraq began Jan. 17, 1991 and lasted for a month before ground troops moved in to force the Iraqi military out of Kuwait.
The First Gulf War ended Feb. 28, 1991 when an international coalition from 34 countries authorized by the UN, and led primarily by the United States, reclaimed Kuwait to be ruled by the Sabah family and a democratic parliament. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers quickly surrendered or deserted their posts as the coalition stormed across the desert. When it was over, Iraq had suffered between 20,000 and 35,000 casualties. Over the decades since, the conflict has evolved and thousands of Americans are still serving, defending democracy across the globe.
Honor Our Veterans! God Bless America! Passaic County Clerk
Kristin Corrado Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Randy Colondres, Mark Centurione, David Pereda, Wayne Stine, Frank Loran.
Keeping Us Safe; Locally and Nationally Getting lost as he drove acrosss a pitch black Kuwaiti desert is one of the most harrowing experiences Esly Panduro recalls from his time in the Gulf. That desert night Panduro was transporting a new lieutenant to his post but the Humvee was without direction or navigational devices. “We got lost for a most of the night and waited for sunrise to navigate to our final destination using a magnetic compass.” Now a Master Sgt. (E-8) and Mobility Warrant Officer in his 28th year in both the Army and National Guard, and over two decades as a Clifton cop, Panduro looks back with honor and pride at his service. He enlisted in 1987 and did his boot camp in Fort Sill, OK. From there he was assigned to infantry and artillery units in Zirndorg West Germany and in Fort Riley, KS. His unit was deployed to the Persian Gulf with Panduro earning the rank of specialist on a cannon crew where his duties ranged from transporting ammunition to supply Howitzers and support the other troops on the front line. On the ground in Clifton, Panduro is in his 20th year as a patrolman. Over those two decades, he has held numerous posts and patrolled various beats in our diverse city. Like many cops serving in Clifton, he has seen many changes in this once suburban town. When he considers the skills he learned in the military and how it applies to patrolling the streets of our home town, Panduro sums it up as follows, “I consider myself and others on patrol the infantrymen with the department. We respond to varying situations from alarms and 911 calls, disputes, motor vehicle accidents, thefts and shoplifting and bring it to a resolution.” Panduro’s unit is the HHC 50th IBCT attached to the Lawrenceville, NJ Armory. 34 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Taking JFK’s Lead Clifton Police Officer Joel Smith used the words of President John F. Kennedy to explain his reason to serve his country: “I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: “I served in the United States Navy.” Joel Smith was a full time active duty sailor from 1988 and was honorably discharged in 1992. “While serving in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I was as an electrician on board the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy CV-67 and specialized in weapons elevator repair. During my time in, I have seen many countries.” Smith is a 17 year veteran with the CPD assigned as a School Resource Officer as a Juvenile Detective. “When I was in war, the most difficult thing was being away from my family and friends,” said Smith recently. “But working on an aircraft carrier kept me busy. Sailing the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Red Seas, the most memorable thing was taking in the beauty of the oceans and seas, which will be etched in my memory for a life time.” Fueling our Military in the Middle East “A lot of what we did logistically when we got to the Gulf was done haphazardly,” explained CPD Detective Frank Loran. “When we got there, the logistics of everything was very challenging. There were a lot of questions about what was going on since we got there two weeks ahead of scheduled. No one knew what to do with their units and everything was happening faster than anyone anticipated,” Loran served in the Army and Army Reserves from 1987 to 1993 and spent seven months in the Persian Gulf running missions.
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
With Transportation as his Military Occupational Specialty, he was a E-4 Specialist who provided fuel and supplies to the armor components of the US Army 7th Corp and their helicopters. He conducted missions in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. While 1991 does not seem that distant in time, in technology it was almost another universe. Loran recalled that communicating home was challenging and that they’d rely on letters back then versus the telephone, which were located at far-away bases. “I remember when I came home, I was happy about the simplest of things. When you go to those third world countries — you tend to appreciate what we have at home and take less things for granted.” “During the first war in th Gulf, they didn’t finish their business — thats what led to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The US should have finished what we started with our coalition partners the first time we were there in the 90’s.” Loran has been with the CPD since Jan. 1995 and is a detective assigned to the Juvenile Division.
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200 Miles from Baghdad Randy Colondres, a Desert Storm veteran, also grew up in a military family. “My father, Edwin, was in the Marines and won the Purple Heart in Vietnam. While he was stationed in Puerto Rico, he met and married my mother, Elsa. That’s where I was born,” said Colondres, who is a detective with the Clifton Police Department and a longtime participant in the Police Unity Tour.. Colondres joined the Army on his 17th birthday in 1987 and but didn’t begin his four-year tour of duty until a year later, after he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson. Trained as a track vehicle mechanic, Colondres’ skills were vitally needed in the Persian Gulf as the Coalition Forces prepared for the invasion of Iraq. Colondres was transferred from his post in Germany and arrived in Saudi Arabia in early 1991. A few weeks later, Colondres rode with a tank crew attached to the 18th Army Corps into Southern Iraq at the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Their mission was to cut off the Iraqi Army’s Republican Guard. “Our tanks moved a couple of hundred miles in just a few days before President Bush stopped us about 200 miles outside of Baghdad,” he said. His tank outfit engaged in scattered battles with ground forces, took on a lot of sniper fire, and rounded up countless prisoners. “A lot of the Iraqi ground forces were just giving up. Because our orders were to keep moving, we had to quickly round up some barbed wire, surround them with it and leave some guards behind.” Once a truce was called, Colondres remained in the desert for another three months. “For about three weeks, we didn’t see the sun because all of the oil wells were burning. There was so much smoke the sun always looked like a full moon.” Witness to the cease-fire Mark Centurione also found the Iraqi soldiers to be less than willing to fight. Much of his time in the Gulf was spent guarding Iraqi soldiers who surrendered. The recently named Chief of the Clifton Police enlisted in
the Army after graduating high school in 1988 and became a member of the 66th Military Police Company. “I was responsible for guarding the POWs as they came in,” said Centurione, who arrived in Saudi Arabia in December 1990, a little over a month before the fighting began. During the five months he was stationed in the Middle East, Centurione would move with his troops through Kuwait and Iraq. “My platoon of 20 guys was overwhelmed with POWs,” explained Centurione. “At one point, the 20 of us we were guarding 3,000 Iraqis. They were only prisoners because they wanted to be.” In addition to guarding prisoners, Centurione was responsible for battlefield circulation or directing the traffic of troops. He also needed to make sure equipment went in the right direction and had the proper security. His greatest moment of the war was being present on the runway when Schwarzkopf met with the Iraqi generals to sign the cease-fire agreement. Centurione, who was named the New Jersey Officer of the Year in 2000, says his Desert Storm service helped prepare him for life on and off the job.
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Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
2nd Tour of Duty Wayne Stine and David Pereda are like brothers. They both joined the Clifton Police Department in January 1998 and were partners for a while before working their way up to the Detective’s Bureau. The officers were both at Ground Zero following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and then traveled to New Orleans together to help out during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
40 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
But Stine and Pereda had something in common before they even met a decade ago. They were both in the Marine Corps during the first Gulf War in the early ’90s. Stine, 46, is a former Marine Corporal, having served actively from 1988 to 1992. “I was 19 when I was over there and I served in a Marine Infantry Unit,” he explained. “It happened real quick. We were in and out.” Pereda, 44, was also in the Corps
back then, serving in North Africa, Turkey and Israel, but he never saw action in a combat zone. After his time in the military, Pereda, who grew up in South Florida, moved to New Jersey to pursue a career in law enforcement. “Clifton is kind of like the little big city. It’s big, but not too big,” he said. “The police force is professional with a lot of good people and a good reputation. I was drawn to it.” Meanwhile, following his discharge in 1992, Stine, a South Jersey native, attended Ocean County College before going to Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where he once again became involved with the military, first serving with the NJ National Guard from 1994 to 1998. After graduating with a Criminal Justice degree in 1996, Stine applied to the CPD and was hired along with Pereda in ’98. In 2007, the fellow cops decided to join the Guard again. “It was an inner call to duty,” said Pereda. “It was because of my desire to do my part with the global war on terror. I believe some people are made for certain roles in life and I believe that Wayne and I are built to be men of service.” Stine echoed his good friend’s comments. “I pretty much just believe in the cause and what’s going on,” he said. “I just wanted to help out as much as I could.” The men got that opportunity in October 2007, when the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) of which they are members, was alerted for a Security Force mission in Iraq.
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Pre-Mobilization training and administrative operations took place prior and that’s when they were trained on key Infantry tasks. Over the years, the unit takes part in a three-week training program at Fort Indiantown Cap, Pa. The annual training is used to enhance individual and collective soldier skills and focused on weapons qualification, driver training and Combat Life Saver training. “The tempo has been picking up. Instead of going away for two weeks that year, we went for three,” Stine explained. “We’re getting sent to a lot of military schools and we’ll be going to Texas for a couple months.”
“I explained that Daddy’s a policeman and I help people in Clifton and a soldier is pretty much the same thing,” said David Pereda to his daughter Kayla before a deployment in 2009. He went on to tell her: “People in Iraq need help too and I’m going to go over and try to make their lives better.” In 2008, they began a one year mobilization at Fort Bliss before deploying first to Kuwait for about two weeks acclimatization in September. After this, the scheduled “boots on the ground” time in Iraq lasts for about nine months before the 50th IBCT returned to the States in late spring 2009. Specialist Pereda said the toughest part of that tour was the time away from his wife Laurie, and their daughter Kayla. “It’s kind of hard to put time into perspective for a child, so I told her I was going to miss her entire second grade,” said Pereda. “I explained that Daddy’s a police man and I help people in Clifton and a soldier is pretty much the same thing. People in Iraq need help too and I’m going to go over and try to make their lives better. “My wife definitely had a level of concern for me too, but she knows that I’m well trained and it gave her comfort to know that I was there with Wayne.” Then a Sergeant and Squad Leader in the Guard, Stine felt that his experience had prepared him well for what he experienced. “I’m just fell back and relied on my training to get me through it.”
42 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
something serious, but I didn’t underThe Marine Bond stand the true extent of it because I had In the Clifton Fire Department, the never been to war before.” Gulf War veterans are well representTo prepare for deployment, Kelly ed. Some such as Kevin Danielson, was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Bob Barone and Mal Kelly joined the Carolina, for 10 day training. “We did armed forces as young men, and later a refresher on our training and took a met up in Clifton as fire fighters. lot of shots to make sure we were “I’ve never had a good answer for ready for the Middle East,” he why I joined. I was in college at Ocean explained. “Then we went from North Country Community College, and Carolina to JFK to Saudi Arabia. We three of us signed up together. When spent two weeks in the Port of Jubial we originally enlisted in the reserves, While we couldn’t catch up to in Saudi Arabia and offloaded all of if you lived more than 50 miles away him due to press deadline, Ken Olsen also served in the Gulf the trucks from the ships. There was from the duty station, they had to put also some driver training, since all of you up in a hotel. Because we were an us were not qualified, and the other part was just getinfantry unit, the captain told us that was not going to ting acclimated to the weather.” happen,” he laughed. Kelly, a native of Jackson, joined In Saudi Arabia, Kelly, Barone, and nearly 60 other the reserves in 1987 as a 21 year old. “I was an infantry reserve soldiers were pulled from the 6th Motor T and Marine at the time and used to fire mortars. In 1988, put with 8th Loader. “We filled in a lot of slots that myself and one buddy got a transfer and ended up were vacated within their table of organization,” going to a motor transport unit in Red Bank, and that’s recalled Kelly. where I met Bob Barone, who was a staff sergeant at “We just packed up our entire camps into our trucks the time.” and trailers, and drove out into the dancer,” he recalled. According to Kelly, at the time he had enlisted, there “I kept a journal as we went along. We set up the was little thread of being deployed. However, in the camps out in the middle of the desert. I remember they year leading up to the Gulf War, it rapidly became eviwere 1 square mile wide each, and there were four of dent that he would most likely be seeing action. As a them together, so it was two miles by two miles total. reservist, Kelly said he was bothered more by the It was huge, just a giant square, right in the middle of uncertainty of his situation. no where in the desert.” “The word had initially gone out in as a rumor in According to Kelly, life in the desert was mundane August, but as each month went by, it looked more and — mostly work, with a little bit of downtime mixed in. more like it was going to happen,” he said. “So it did“I had, which was common at the time, a walkman, n’t come as a complete surprise when I was activated. and I had my radio station set to the armed forces If anything, it was more of a feeling of the waiting radio,” recalled Kelly. “We were on the road every day, finally being over.” transporting POWs, or running supplies for engineers “I was activated for the Gulf War in December of and artillery: ammunition, water, fuel... just constantly 1990,” Kelly recalled. “I remember having a family going. Once we left camp, we were driving every day, dinner at the time, and there was talk about Saddam and then had eight hours off. In those eight house, you Hussein having the fourth largest army in the world. I had enough time to grab a hot meal, shower, write just remember saying to my brother, ‘If that is true, and home, read your mail, and then sleep. Otherwise, you things get bad, run - don’t walk - to either the Navy or were actively going to and from somewhere. I never Air Force recruiter.’” entered Iraq. I went into Kuwait a day or two before “I didn’t want him to wait if it got bad,” Kelly conthe ground war, but otherwise we were stationed in tinued. “There were all these rumors of a draft, and it Saudi Arabia.” was really being built up by the press. I knew it was 44 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
That was Kelly’s routine from December of 1990 until May in the following year, when he returned stateside. Though the experience was short lived, spending time in a warzone, and in the Marines, created a bond that still lives today. “I’m definitely closer to the guys that I served with than I am to most of my childhood friends. You have to rely each other - you never knew what was going to come next. That forces a bond to develop, and it is unlike anything else. There is still a group of us that get together several times during the year,” said Kelly. “Veteran’s day the Marine Corps birthday... we just eat, drink and share memories as a group. One of the guys in my son’s godfather, and I am his daughter’s godfather. You develop a closeness unlike what you have with people you see on a daily basis from being so close together for six months or more.” Kelly served in the reserves until June 6, 1993 — one day before his son, Malick III, was born. Upon returning home, he took the civil service exam, and sought jobs in police and fire across New Jersey. “Barone, who I had known for several years, he was really pushing me to take the civil service test, as did a number of other friends,” said Kelly, who now lives in Glen Ridge with his wife, Debra, and daughter Samantha. “Barone had been on the job for about four years already, and we were staying in touch. He was one of the guys who pushed me towards joining. I was on the list for Kearny, Harrison, and Clifton at the time. Clifton had to open up their list to the entire state as a result of a suit by the NAACP, and they called me in 1997.” “There’s a great amount of camaraderie on the fire department, just like the military,” he continued. “You become very close. If you have something going on that
you need help with, guys will jump at the chance to help you whether it’s something at home or an emergency on the job. As time goes on, you learn that you can depend on those guys for almost anything.” The Slow Build Up Unlike some of the other Gulf War vets in the Clifton Fire Dept., Bob Barone had completed a four year tour with the Marines and was in the Reserves when he was called to active duty in the Middle East in 1990. “I had several family members serve in the military, and there was really nothing I wanted to do in life at that point, so I went to the recruiters office to join the Marines,” recalled Barone, who was 19 when he enlisted in 1982. His father, Dominick, served in the Navy. “I never knew anything about the Marine Corps until I walked into the Navy recruitment office, and a Marine recruiter walked out.” Barone completed his boot camp at Parris Island, NC and spent four years with the Marines, stationed as far away as Okinawa, Japan. By the time the Gulf War had rolled around, Barone was in the reserves, and was called to active duty in the months leading up to the Gulf War. “I was in Motor Transport, so I was a truck driver. I got out as a corporal when I was active duty, and picked up sergeant in Red Bank (in the reserves) in 1993,” he explained. In the reserves, Barone was stationed with Mal Kelly and Kenny Olsen, and all three would later join the Clifton Fire Department. “You joined the Marines and you know going to a war zone could obviously happen, and it did when I was in the reserves,” he recalled. “It just started building up slowly, and it was all in the media. The next thing, November comes around, and they tell us you are
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going to be going over. You just accept it - it is part of your job, part of being a Marine.” “You always think about it, leaving home,” Barone continued. “As active duty, I had done it before, but other guys in the reserves had never done it before. But I got to tell you, it was the longest flight of my life. We took a commercial flight over, and stopped in Belgium first.” After landing the Port of Jubail in Saudi Arabia, Barone and the rest of his reserve unit were attached to an active duty unit, and sent out to support the war effort. “The pride of the Marine Corps is the infantry, but the pride don’t ride without the Motor T,” explained Barone. “You didn’t really have a lot of spare time. You got letters from home, but those took a while. We had a briefing every day, but the air strikes were what really took care of business. There were POW camps, and a lot of our jobs were POW runs. As the Army got closer to Baghdad, it was more fortified, but most of the Iraqi military on the way there were civilians who were conscripted. A lot of them were happy to see us. I also remember seeing lots of oil fires, which you could see for miles.” Barone did 20 years of service in the Reserves, leaving Red Bank in 1997, and joining the Dover Reserve Unit, 25th Marines Company. He retired in 2004 as an e6 Staff Sergeant. “After the Gulf War, I took numerous civil service exams, and Clifton was one of the top cities that I wanted to join. My friend, Kenny Olsen, who also served,
48 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
was hired with me in 1993, and Mal Kelly joined a little after us. All of us were in the Reserves together,” recalled Barone, who lives in Jefferson Township, and is married to his wife, Anne Marie. They have two daughters: Samantha, and Jessica. “The Marines are the best fraternity I can think of. I can call anybody I know if I ever need something - it is pretty good.” Firefighter in Saudi Arabia Kevin Danielson joined the Air Force in 1992 with the plan of coming out and becoming a fire fighter. “The military had always interested me,” he explained. “My uncle, David, had been a lieutenant coronel in the Air Force for over 20 years, and it just seemed like a good career move for myself.” “I was 21 at the time-they called me old man when I was serving--and I didn’t know what I wanted to do besides that,” he continued. “Serving my country and getting a skill appealed to me, and it was probably one of the best decisions I had ever made.” Danielson was trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and was later deployed in 1993. “I was deployed in Saudi Arabia as a fire protection specialist,” he explained. “Our base had the stealth fighters, which ran sorties over Baghdad, and we ran fire protection for the base.” Danielson was discharged as a senior airman in 1996, and joined the Clifton Fire Department in 1997, now serving out of Station 2. Though it’s been nearly 25 years since the Gulf War, he is still friendly with
Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
Pat Hollenback, John C. Dubravsky, Kevin Danielson, Ken Collucci, Bob Barone.
many of those that he fought along side with. “You make friendships at those odd times, and those friendships are really bonded in a theater of operation or theater of war,” explained Danielson. “And they don’t stop when that ends. I still keep in touch with guys I’ve trained with and served with.” “I’ve got friends spread out all over the country: Texas, California, the Carolinas, here — you name it, I can name a friend. It’s brothers in arms,” he continued. “Some guys it’s been almost 20 years, but with the internet, you stay closer than other. Others, you’ve watched their kids grow up.”
When the ground assault began, Hollenback was part of the raids on Fahlaka and Bubiyan islands. “It was part of General Norman Schwarzkopf’s Hail Mary play to make the Iraqis think we were launching an amphibious assault,” he said. In reality, it was a smoke screen to take the focus away from the Saudi Arabia border. In the meantime, the Army, Marines and other coalition forces on the mainland moved into position. The Iraqi soldiers Hollenback encountered on the islands were more than willing to surrender. “They were a rag-tied, unfed group with no medical facilities,” he said.
Enforcing the blockade Pat Hollenback joined the armed forces right out of high school. The 1988 CHS grad and current Clifton Fireman joined the Navy a month after graduation. Of the many duties he had, his main focus was to repair helicopters on the amphibious assault carrier U.S.S. Guam. Hollenback explained that although it is an assault carrier, its large size allows it to be used for rescue missions as well. For instance in Somalia, the ship was instrumental in evacuating 280 US embassy personnel and civilians in the early 1990s. Before the counter-invasion began in January of 1991, Hollenback’s ship performed several functions, such as maritime interdiction of the boats entering or leaving Iraqi ports. “It was our job to make sure that UN economic sanctions against Iraq were enforced,” said Hollenback. Ships were intercepted and inspected before they could proceed to make sure they were not carrying contraband. As pressure between Iraq and the coalition forces grew, Hollenback ship played an increasingly important role in the conflict. On one occasion, Hollenback woke to an alarm that Iraqi jets were flying in under their radar. “We moved to our stations until our fighters chased them back,” he said.
Mission classified John C. Dubravsky wanted to learn his trade in the armed services as well. After graduating from CHS in 1988, he joined the Navy where he hoped to work as a firefighter. He became a Machinist Mate on the U.S.S. Henry M. Jackson, a ballistic missile nuclear submarine. Dubravsky worked as a mechanic on the ship’s diesel generator, refrigeration, hydraulic, and plumbing systems. However his primary detail was fire control. “One of the reasons I went that route was so I could work as a firefighter,” he explained. Dubravsky planned to follow his father’s lead to pursue a career as a firefighter while serving his time in the Navy. Dubravsky couldn’t share any details of his service during Desert Storm, since his ship’s mission is considered classified information. All he could confirm is that the submarine was deployed during the war. “We weren’t told exactly where we were,” explained Dubravsky, of the submarines coordinates. “That’s only given out on a need to know basis so there is no breach of security.” Though its been 25 years, for some of these men, there isn’t a day that goes by that they don’t think about the Gulf War or how it affected their lives.
50 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
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Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
GULF WAR ILLNESS Clifton Grad Part of Research Team to Help Gulf War Veterans By Irene Jarosewich Approximately a quarter million American veterans who fought in the first Gulf War in the early 1990s suffer from Gulf War Illness — a debilitating cluster of symptoms that includes chronic physical and cognitive fatigue, headaches, depression and memory problems. The ever-present fatigue prevents veterans from performing basic tasks at home and at work, rendering them effectively disabled. The cause is unclear — maybe a reaction to the fumes from burning oil wells, or maybe reaction to residue particles from the chemicals in weapons that were floating around in the desert dust storms, or maybe a form of PTSD. Currently, the Veterans Administration officially refers to the pattern of symptoms as a MUI — a medically unexplained illness. However, among the public, the syndrome is simply called Gulf War Illness. Born May 1992, Alec DeGraaf does not remember the war. Yet through his job at the Kessler Foundation in West Orange, he deals with the war’s consequences each day. DeGraaf is a research assistant with the Fatigue in Gulf War Illness study, a joint effort between Kessler and the VA. His job is to collect background information from veterans, administer the neuropsychological tests, review and score them, perform brain scans and prepare the data for processing. The goal of the research study, noted DeGraaf, is to use the most modern imaging technology to pinpoint areas of the brain most closely related to the cognitive fatigue that debilitates so many Gulf War veterans. He Loves His Job “I wanted to attend military academy. I participated in the Junior Marine Corps ROTC in (Clifton) high school. I applied, got the necessary congressional recommendations — everything, but in the end, I was turned down for medical reasons. So while I’ll never serve, I now help those who did.” 52 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
John DeLuca, PhD with Alec DeGraaf.
DeGraaf can draw a straight line from his rejection six years ago to his job today. “When I graduated CHS in 2010 and didn’t get in, I was really disappointed. So, I went to my backup school, NJIT, to study engineering. In year three, I told my parents I wanted to transfer to William Paterson, to their excellent biopsychology program. Even though I like working with my hands, like engineering, I had really become interested in psychology back in high school. My parents were not happy. Not happy at all.” However, transfer he did and soon after that became both a tutor and a university research assistant. After graduating with honors last year, he interviewed with Dr. John DeLuca, a senior vice president with the Kessler Foundation, who was also an alumni of William Paterson. “I was fortunate. He was familiar with the biopsychology program, understood it. Now, in my job, I use skills from my engineering courses, with my experience as a research assistant and combine that with my sympathy for veterans.” Clifton Legacy DeGraaf comes from three generations of Cliftonites. His father, John DeGraaf, Jr., Resource Development Director at the Boys and Girls Club is a Clifton native, as is his mother Maria. Both his grandfathers were veterans and DeGraaf has fond mem-
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Clifton Merchant â€˘ May 2016
ories of spending countless of hours with his mother’s father, Edward Noll, at the old Foodies (now Mike’s Cafe) listening to stories from his grandfather’s buddies. “My grandfather, Edward Noll, grew up on a farm in Garfield before he left home at 16 to serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps in Colorado. Then he enlisted and served two terms in the Army. After that, he signed up for the Navy and served in Korea. All told, he served 22 years in the armed forces.” His grandfather Noll had a great sense of humor recalls, DeGraaf, always making fun of how old he was. Once, upon passing a car wash, he remembers his grandfather musing aloud, “Back in the day, I used to curry (wash and brush) my horse. Nowadays, you boys curry your cars.” DeGraaf and his older brother John cracked up. “That was a great line! We reminded him of that one for years!” His grandfather DeGraaf, a member of American Legion Post #8 in Clifton, had enlisted in the Navy during World War II. His service was cut short when he was suddenly called back to tend the family business, DeGraaf Brother Dairies in located in upper Passaic County, after the unexpected death of a family member.
54 May 2016 • Clifton Merchant
“The DeGraaf family has a long history in Clifton. One of the original DeGraaf dairy plants was located at the intersection of Van Houten and Mt. Prospect, where the Walgreens now stands. For a long time older people in Clifton, when they heard my name, would tell me stories about the dairy plant they remembered.” DeGraaf lives with his brother, his parents and dogs Hank and Pudge, near St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, in the house built by his grandfather DeGraaf. “Kessler Foundation is a fantastic place to work. It’s cutting edge. Working there, you are exposed to the next best thing. For example, they have the latest bionic suit — an exoskeleton — people who haven’t walked in years can walk in an exoskeleton. It’s amazing. I love to work with my hands, I’m thinking about developing tools, robotics, human performance engineering. Even though I know I’m fortunate now, that my life is very good, I also know it can’t last forever.” The veteran’s research study at the Kessler Foundation is at about the halfway point, with only a few years left. With that in mind, DeGraaf is already planning to take his skills, experience, and sympathy to the next level.