New Jersey town celebrates Marine awarded the Medal of Honor
RARITAN, N.J. (Tribune News Service) — Thousands lined the streets of Raritan on Sunday to honor John Basilone, the famed borough resident and World War II hero that the town has been honoring with a parade since 1981.
Basilone, a Marine sergeant, was awarded the country’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.
He returned to the states on a war bond tour, including a large parade in Raritan in 1943, and was a celebrity serviceman. He elected to return to the war in the Pacific, and front-line combat, and died in 1945 on Iwo Jima - for which he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
Beautiful blue skies greeted the return of this year’s marching parade. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the parade was a motorcade that covered a 4-mile route, said parade chairman Bruce Doorly. This year’s parade returned to the normal 1-mile length.
More than 100 units marched in the parade.
“I was 13 years old when I rode my bike to the first parade (1943),” said Gregory Castelli who was born in 1929 and remembers Basilone, the parade, and the movie stars that accompanied the event at what was then known as Duke Park.
“It’s a very good parade,” said Castelli who added, “I never miss the parade.”
According to the Basilone Parade website, Basilone is the only enlisted Marine awarded the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, return to action after receiving the Medal of Honor and be killed in action, and to have an annual parade in his honor.
“Basilone is a real hero to us, he didn’t have to go back and he went back,” said Doorly.
Basilone’s life and heroics were featured prominently in “The Pacific,” the 2010 HBO miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. In it, Basilone was portrayed by Jon Seda.
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