When Manny Stone was planting American flags near the graves of Jewish war veterans at Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Iselin on Memorial Day of 2011, he was appalled at something he spotted.
“I saw a beautiful bronze monument standing near our members’ graves, but there was no flag flying from our flagpole.”
The pole, which showed signs of rust and needed repainting, has stood in Block 4 of the cemetery since it was installed by Jewish War Veterans Post 26 of Newark in 1936.
To Stone, who served in the Coast Guard during World War II and is quartermaster of JWV Post 536 in Manalapan, the negligence had to be rectified promptly. So he appealed to the cemetery’s manager.
But, Stone said, she told him that “the management was not responsible for the property. She wanted us to have an insurance policy so that if anything such as a tombstone was damaged it would be covered,” he told NJ Jewish News in a March 12 phone interview.
After the post obtained liability insurance through the JWV’s national headquarters in Washington, DC, Stone faced more obstacles.
First, he had to find a way to get someone to the top of the 60-foot pole to scrape off the rust and give it a new paint job.
Local fire engines and a truck with a cherry picker were too wide to drive between the cemetery’s narrow lanes. So Stone found Al Williams, owner of A&W Flags, a Merchantville firm that sells flags and flagpoles — and whose motto is “We climb flagpoles!” — who did just that, in December in two hours.
“It was a cloudy day and Al went up there with a half-gallon of paint, repaired the pole, and put up the flag” said Lou Raiman of Manalapan, a past commander of Post 536, who came to supervise his work.
Then Stone arranged for a solar-powered light to be installed at the top of the pole so that the flag would stay lit all night long.
The entire effort cost $2,000.
Stone, 85, who lives in the Covered Bridge section of Manalapan, is the retired owner of a firm that provides decorations to stores. A member of Temple Beth Shalom, Stone “has a lot of fun” singing in the Manalapan synagogue’s choir and performing as a tenor with Makhelat Hamercaz, the Jewish Choir of Central NJ, which presents concerts of Jewish liturgical and secular music in Hebrew, English, Yiddish, and Ladino.
Stone has two sons, one daughter, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
A flag now flies atop the renovated pole. But JWV post members are asking Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to provide them with a flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol.
Once that happens, “I would like to have a ceremony, complete with a military bugler blowing reveille, the military tune sounded in the morning to waken sleeping troops,” said Stone.
He views it as a wake-up call for an American public he feels has largely ignored its veterans and the wars they fought.
“It is important for the people to know and not forget,” he said. “We got killed out there, and we sacrificed an awful lot.”