2021 Annual Memorial Day Observance
“The Morris County Board of County Commissioners recognizes resident Veterans by presenting them with the Distinguished Military Service Medal. These medals have been awarded since 2000 to Veterans or their family members to honor their service to our country. Medals are provided to Veterans who have been honorably discharged, who are present or former Morris County residents and who have provided a copy of their discharge papers. More than 10,000 have been presented to date.”
View our photo gallery
The 2021 Memorial Day Observance Ceremony
Morris County Distinguished Service Medals were presented at a Memorial Day Observance on May 26. View the recording of the event below.
Veterans Receiving Awards
Sara L. Vasso, Morris Township
Sara L. Vasso, Morris Township, Served in the U.S. Army from 1985 to 1994, both active duty and in the U.S. Army Reserves. Mrs. Sara Little Vasso is the first woman in her family to have served in the military.
Mrs. Vasso achieved the rank of Sergeant and was a First Lieutenant in the Reserves. Her military specialty was Air Defense Artillery Intelligence Analyst and as an Army Nurse. She served in Germany and deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Storm.
Mrs. Vasso is a member of the American Legion Morris County where she has served as an officer at Post 91 and also at the County level. She is also a Life Member of the VFW, and she is a Registered Nurse and continues to work in that profession.
Mrs. Vasso also is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Morristown Chapter. Her family has a long record of military service dating back to the Revolutionary war. Mrs. Vasso has a son, Josh, and is married to Avery Vasso, past Commander of the Morris County American Legion.
Mrs. Vasso’s awards and commendations include: the Army Commendation Medal (Three Awards), Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal (Three Service Stars), Armed Forces Reserve Medal (M Device), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon, Kuwait Liberation Medal – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Liberation Medal – Kuwait, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
George M. Macchia, Chatham
Served in the Air Force, active duty, from September 1986 to December 1992.
Mr. Macchia served with the 509th Air Refueling Squadron at Griffiss Air Force Base from 1987-1992. He was a Navigator and an Instructor Navigator on a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker and rose to the rank of captain at the time of his separation.
Mr. Macchia served in Desert Storm. He was awarded the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Aerial Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor and one oak leaf cluster, the Combat Readiness Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Southwest Asia Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
He is a 1982 graduate of Hudson Catholic High School, and 1986 B.A. graduate in Political Science of at Rutgers University, where he was enrolled in ROTC.
Subsequent to his military service, Mr. Macchia became a 1992 graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with a MBA in Management and a 1998 graduate of Seton Law School, cum laude.
Since 1998, Mr. Macchia has been practicing law and is currently in-house counsel with Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. Aside from working in private practice, Mr. Macchia was a Deputy Attorney General in New Jersey from 2005 -2011, representing the State of New Jersey in child welfare cases and representing the former University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey in various legal matters.
Mr. Macchia is married to Dr. Rosemichele Sorvino-Macchia, and have three children, now adults, Drew, William and Livia. When his children were young, he volunteered coaching soccer and officiating swim meets at the YMCA and USA swimming meets, and supported his sons' Boy Scouting activities.
Christopher W. Anderson, Mount Arlington
Served as a U.S. Navy firefighter during the Vietnam War on the USS Spartanburg County (LST-1192), an amphibious combat troop carrier with 300 U.S. Marine Corps personnel.
Mr. Anderson served during the final year of the war, through the fall of Saigon, then was assigned to the USS John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier, during Operation Deep Express with NATO in the Mediterranean and Turkey. He later participated in the 1976 The United States Bicentennial flotilla in New York City before being honorably discharged.
Mr. Anderson, an avid outdoorsman who hunts and fishes, worked for 13 years as a welder, metal fitter and adult school teacher. He owned his own business for three years, spending 25 years as an equipment businessman, and two years as a certification instructor at Montclair State University.
He served seven years on the Mount Arlington Board of Health, two years as president, and he was a member of the American Legion. Anderson has been a member of the West Milford Elks for 20 years. Along with hunting and fishing, he is a gardener, motorcyclist, military veteran volunteer and identifies himself as a “gentleman country farmer” who also serves as trainer for this medical service dog, “Trooper.”
Evan M. Ruggiero, Parsippany Township
Served with the U.S. Army National Guard, with the rank of sergeant, and is currently serving with the U.S. Army National Guard as a Section Chief with C Battery 3-112th Field Artillery.
Mr. Ruggiero enlisted on June 26, 2013 and he deployed with C Troop 1-102 CAV to Somalia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From March through November 2019, he served in the Horn of Africa. Mr. Ruggiero also graduated the U.S. Army Basic Leaders Course.
He participates in the U.S. Army Military Funeral Honors Program.
Mr. Ruggiero’s awards include: Combat Action Badge, Army Achievement Medal with Combat Device, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Meritorious Device, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, GWOT Service Ribbon, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, National Defense Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
Mr. Ruggiero is a 2010 Parsippany High School graduate, and he played baseball in the Par-Troy East Little League through high school. He attended Kean University, where he helped run various blood drives and bone marrow drives, and was a member of Nu Sigma Phi Fraternity.
Mr. Ruggiero is the son of Michael and Tracy Ruggiero, and has three brothers, Ryan, Matthew, and Daniel Ruggiero.
Mr. Ruggiero is engaged to Chrissy Tympanick, and he is employed as a Public Safety Telecommunicator with the Morris County Communications Center.
Mr. Ruggiero is also a member of VFW Post 242 in Boonton. He has raised money for and assisted the Camp Hometown Heroes in Wisconsin as a camp counselor. Camp Hometown Heroes is an annual non-profit summer camp for children who lost parents while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
He enjoys military history and is a fan of the Green Bay Packers, New York Mets, and the New York Rangers.
William J. O’Connor, Morristown
Served in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve after enlisting in August 2000 and completing basic training in October of that year.
Mr. O’Connor was stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Station, Sandy Hook, N.J. and was called to active duty on 9/11 in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He remained on active duty until August 2002.
Mr. O’Connor’s awards include: The Department of Transportation 9/11 Response Medal, the Reserve Mobilization Medal and a letter of commendation for his service. He also was a responder to the fatal Nov. 12, 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight 587 out of John F. Kennedy International Airport, which landed in a Queens, New York City neighborhood.
Mr. O’Connor is a Supervisor Telecommunicator at the Morris County Communications Center, where he began working in 2006, and he has been decorated several times during his employment, notably a Life Saving Award in January 2016. He had provided childbirth instructions to a 911 caller.
Mr. O’Connor, who has volunteered with the Morris Minute Men and the Morris Township Fire Woodland Hook & Ladder, is pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice at Southern New Hampshire University.
He and his wife, Kerry, have two daughters, Gracyn, age 5, and Saoirse, age 3, and they are expecting their third child this July. When not working, Mr. O’Connor enjoys spending time with his family and discussing the history of movies and music.
Joseph W. Ellis, Lake Hopatcong
Served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army National Guard.
Mr. Ellis was a military police officer from December 2008 to June 2012 with the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Drum, N.Y.
In March 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While deployed, Mr. Ellis served as a police trainer for the Afghan National Police and Army. He also was a battlefield forensic technician and gunner.
Upon his return, he was transferred to the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade in South Korea. Mr. Ellis left active duty in July of 2013, and he is currently a sergeant with the New Jersey Army National Guard.
Mr. Ellis received a Combat Action Badge, five Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals and various other awards. He is a VFW member and enjoys fishing.
Fallen Morris County Hero of Yesteryear
The Look Back on a Fallen Morris County Resident
Morris County Memorial Day Observance 2021
We do not forget our heroes in Morris County, especially those who fall in combat or during military service.
It is traditional to remember at least one of them by name at our Memorial Day Observance, and because of the turmoil America suffered this past year with the pandemic, we thought it fitting to look back on the selflessness and heroism of:
Amabel Scharff Roberts - an American nurse serving in France during World War I.
Born nearby in Madison, Morris County, on Sept. 16, 1891, she grew up there and attended what was then-called Vassar College, graduating with honors with the Class of 1913. She won an academic prize to attend a summer course at the National Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Her experience there may have influenced her decision to enter the School of Nursing at the Presbyterian Hospital of New York, now Columbia University. She undertook the work during peacetime, and it was an unusual choice for a child of privilege because nursing was considered menial labor.
Miss Roberts graduated with honors with the Class of 1916, and thanks to her extensive training, she retained a supervisory position at Columbia University Hospital, where she was working when the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917.
She volunteered to be an American Red Cross nurse for wartime service, explaining in a letter she wrote that she “would not have been contented to be a slacker.” In mid-May 1917, six weeks after the United States declared war on Germany, she sailed for France with other volunteer nurses to care for the British and French soldiers already embroiled in the war.
While enroute, she and other nurses were enlisted into the U.S. Army and she was stationed at Presbyterian Hospital Base Number 2 on the Normandy Coastline in Étretat, France.
A glimpse into the character of this selfless woman was offered in one of the many letters Nurse Roberts sent home.
“I don’t think we can do enough for them, these men who have left everything….I am more thankful every day that I took up nursing, even though my bit is so very small indeed,” she wrote.
Sadly, on January 17, 1918, Nurse Roberts died of blood poisoning, contracted while she tended the injured soldiers.
She was only 26 years old.
Miss Roberts was the first citizen of Madison to die and the first American Army nurse to die in that “War to End All Wars.”
As we honor her memory today, we join many who recognized that her “bit,” as she called it, was not so very small.
In France, she was the subject of a huge military funeral, and when her body was returned to Madison, the outpouring was the same as family and friends buried her in Hillside Cemetery.
A memorial tree was planted in her honor at James Park in Madison, along with a World War I Eagle Monument that bears her name. Other plaques in Madison and elsewhere continue to honor her.
In 1937, The American Legion Post 3662 was chartered as the Amabel S. Roberts Post – the first to be named after a woman.
Today, we join in honoring her as one of our fallen Morris County heroes.
Margaret and Wade Merrick were present for today's ceremonies. The couple live in the house in Madison where Miss Roberts grew up and work to have her name and sacrifice remembered. They are friends of her descendants. Miss Robert's great nephew viewed the livestream from his home in Arizona.