August 10, 2009
Marines honored at Picatinny for doing U.S., N.J. proud


ROCKAWAY TWP. — Richard Tichenor, III, on Sunday joined the ranks of his grandfather, Elmer Kitchell, and couldn't have been prouder.

The two men are military veterans — Kitchel, who served in the U.S. Army during WWII, and Tichenor, a Marine corporal who toured Iraq's Anbar Province from September 2008 until April of this year.

"I'm just following in the footsteps of my grandfather," Tichenor, of Towaco, said during an awards ceremony at Picatinny Arsenal, where he and roughly 125 Marines from Golf Company, 2nd Battalion of the 25th Infantry, were awarded the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal, the state's highest honor.

"He was my grandfather. He's my hero," Tichenor said.

The arsenal-based unit received congratulations from both U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Harding, and Army Col. Stephen G. Abel (retired), the deputy commissioner for veterans affairs of the state's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

"You have a sacred title: Marines," Abel said. "But you also have a second title, an honorable title: veteran."

Eight of the Marines, attired in desert camouflage uniforms, received the medals on a stage inside the Lt. Col. Francis Parker building, during the short ceremony, while the remaining Marines later received their medals. The unit's Marines come all parts of New Jersey, from northern Sussex County to Atlantic City.

"It's nice to be a part. (It's) an honor," said Montville resident Jason C. Crowell, 29, one of the eight Marines who had the awards pinned to their chests by Abel.

"I'm more grateful for what we have here," Crowell, after the ceremony, said while reflecting on his tour in Iraq.

"I am here today because I want to express the gratefulness of our nation for your service," Frelinghuysen said prior to the awards ceremony.

"I am mindful, and this might be politically incorrect to say, that we're still a nation at war," Frelinghuysen continued. 'We still have 130,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan."

The New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal was first issued in 1858 for those who distinguished themselves in militia service.

Lance Cpl. Ryan Lind, 20, of Whippany, sounded a theme expressed by other Marines, that he knew how good Americans have it after seeing Iraq trying to create a coherent democracy.

"Just all the little comforts in America, a lot of people in Iraq don't have the same stuff as us," he said.

Lind said his decision to join the Marines was ingrained within him at an early age.

"I always wanted to do it," he said. "It was something I knew when I was a little kid."

Branchville resident Mark Peer, 35, who until recently moved from Montville, and still works there, said he didn't quite picture himself as war veteran, referring to the men and women who served in WWII.

"They're still the real heroes, those guys," Peer, a staff sergeant said.

While Marines don't typically boast about their medals or awards, they recognize the significance these prizes represent, he said.

"Of course it's always nice to be recognized," Peer said. "It's definitely a real honor."