Nearly 70 years after his death, a World War II Marine from Bernardsville was honored on 26 May 2014, during an emotional Memorial Day services outside of Borough Hall in Kearny, NJ.
A Purple Heart and other military honors awarded to Cpl. Dominic Cosmo Orlando were returned to his hometown and presented to the Bernardsville Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7858.
The ceremony, which drew the attention of several television stations, highlighted the annual parade and services on a picture-perfect holiday.
Born on Sept. 28, 1924, Cpl. Orlando enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was twice wounded during combat in the South Pacific in 1944.
The 20-year-old came home on leave on Nov. 30, 1944, and tragically died in an auto accident.
In what remains a mystery, military documents regarding his service were found in a box at the Morristown Post Office about two years ago. Michael Rosky, a supervisor at the Post Office at the time, said his papers were in a box that had no address and no postage, but was marked “USMC.’’
“I was actually shocked,’’ Rosky said of the discovery, “and I started to do my own research.’’
He eventually “reached a stone wall,’’ he said, but then accidentally learned about the Purple Heart Reunited organization which resumed the work.
“They (the medals) are now back where they belong, not in a box somewhere,’’ Rosky added.
Captain Fike, who carried the glass enclosed case containing various medals and a photo of the young Bernardsville solider during the parade, said it was the first time he had made a presentation on Memorial Day.
“The price of freedom has been very high in our country,’’ he said during the service. “Yet brave men like Cpl. Dominic Cosmo Orlando have never been afraid to pay that price.’’
In today’s society, many people “idolize’’ celebrities and sports stars, he said. “We treat them as our heroes and I think that’s wrong. Heroes can be found in simple places, for example the men standing behind me.’’
He then asked for a round of applause for all the local veterans on hand and the crowd obliged with a long, rousing ovation.
Many heroes can be found in places like Arlington National Cemetery, he noted.
“These men and women gave an oath that they would fight and die if needed. We as Americans owe then a similar oath that we will never forget them.’’
Captain Fike said his “own personal oath’’ is to “never quit’’ or rest until “every single lost medal is returned to its family or the veteran or earned it.’’
Kevin Barry, the local VFW parade chairman, said Cpl. Orlando’s honors will be kept at The Bernardsville Public Library while further research is conducted locally. If a relative is not located who wants to keep them, “they will remain in that historic room for all to see,’’ he said.