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Montgomery Celebrates Four Years as a Purple Heart Town

September 7, 2021


The Montgomery Township Veterans Memorial Committee is collecting stories about Purple Heart recipients who live or have lived in town. The idea is to post the stories on the township website as a way to remember the soldiers, and to fulfill Montgomery’s distinction as a Purple Heart Town. The Purple Heart medal is presented to service members who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action while serving in the U.S. military. The Military Order of the Purple Heart presented Montgomery with a plaque signifying its status as a Purple Heart Town in September 2017.

Montgomery is one of nine places in New Jersey with the designation, which recognizes support for military heroes. The veteran’s committee is accepting stories from local Purple Heart recipients or the next of kin when necessary. If you have a story to share, please email tgaraffa@twp.montgomery.nj.us.


Montgomery’s Known Purple Heart Soldiers

Reporting by James Bushong, a member of the Veterans Committee


Joseph Belmont, US Army

US Army Montgomery resident Nancy Gallagher’s grandfather, Joseph Belmont, earned the Purple Heart from wounds suffered during combat of World War I. Private Belmont was an ambulance driver in the US Army’s Rainbow Division. “Though he suffered the effects of mustard gas, he was one of the fortunate ones,” Gallagher says. As an ambulance driver he must have witnessed horrific wounds and suffering of his comrades. In many ways, transporting the dying would have been worse than transporting the dead. I can’t even begin to comprehend it. “The items I have from him help me understand what he and so many others endured for the sake of our nation.” Gallagher proudly displays her grandfather’s medal in her home along with well-preserved memorabilia from his service.


Richard Harkness, US Army

Bonnie Likely of Montgomery says her grandfather, Richard Harkness, received the Purple Heart while serving in the combat of World War I. Private Harkness was stationed in France when he was wounded while running a message from his unit to another allied army unit. “Runners” had a dangerous and important task—to deliver critical information between units while running through open fields under constant artillery bombardment. Likely’s mother passed down a hand-written note, dog tags, and other memorabilia to keep his spirit alive.


Lt. Ashley Henderson-Huff

A 2000 graduate of Montgomery High School, Henderson-Huff was 23 when she was killed in a suicide bomber attack Sept. 19, 2006 in Mosul, Iraq. She was honored post-mortem by the Military Order of the Purple Heart for her service to the U.S., as well as receiving many other honors. While a student at the University of Georgia, Henderson-Huff was inspired by the events of Sept 11, 2001. She enlisted in ROTC at her college, eventually becoming a platoon leader of the 549th Military Police Company in Iraq. She was instrumental in the establishment of a police academy near Baghdad.


Michael M. McGreevy

Navy LT Michael Martin Mc-Greevy, Jr.’s daughter is a Montgomery High School Student. McGreevy was one of eight Navy Seals in the group of 16 service members killed June 28, when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan. The Navy commandos were based in Coranado Naval Amphibious Base, San Diego, California. Michael was from Virginia Beach, Virginia and was thirty years old. This was the largest number of Navy Seals casualties since the elite Seals were formed in 1962.


Samuel E. Duffield

Corporal Duffield from Skillman was wounded so severely in the battle of Mont Blanc Ridge, France, that he died the same day and was buried near the scene of the battle. Sam was a member of Company D, Ninth Infantry, Second Division, which opposed the Imperial German Army. The result of this battle was the expulsion of the Germans from the Champagne Region. “Sam was among the first, in fact the first, from this community to enlist in his country’s service after the US entered the war. He enlisted in April 1917, being then 19 years of age. He left home on the first day of May. He went to France in September 1917 with the Second Division, among the first of our boys to go “over there.”


The Second Division was thrown into the terrible fighting at Chateau-Thierry on May 31, and, with the 5th and 6th Marines, checked the German rush on Paris. It remained in continuous action, fighting almost day and night, until July 9. In this action, the Ninth Infantry immortalized itself by capturing and holding Vaux against all counter attacks. Sam was gassed with mustard gas on July 4. During the fighting a piece of bursting shell tore a hole in his gas mask another piece went through his knapsack. He patched his mask with tape and so escaped mortal injury. Sam went to the hospital and did not return to his company until the middle of September. The Ninth Infantry went into action on September 30 in the Blanc Mont sector and it was in the storming of Blanc Mont Ridge, the key to the German position, that Sam received the wounds on October 3, 1918 from which he died. (From the New Jersey State Archives.)


Ed Binkowski

Montgomery Township resident Chris Andrews’ father, Lt. Edward Binkowski, earned the Purple Heart while serving in the Army during World War II. Lt. Binkowski was serving in the North African front when he came under heavy fire while leading his platoon. He was hit with two bullets in the arm, and multiple close calls. He was heroically carried back to barracks for surgery by one of his platoon sergeants who disobeyed orders and put himself in great danger of the enemy’s fire to do so. Twelve additional bullet holes were identified in the side of his field jacket- one of which was just two inches away from the grenades he was carrying. Two inches were the difference between remaining forever on the battlefield and making it back home.


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Stephen H. Warner

Stephen Warner of Skillman was an anti-war activist who was drafted in 1969 after finishing his first year at Yale Law School. After induction into the Army, Warner remained bitterly opposed to the Vietnam War. However, when sent to Vietnam as a public information specialist, he repeatedly volunteered to go out into the field to write human interest stories about the combat soldiers. In February 1971, the vehicle on which Warner was riding in Quang Tri Province was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing Steven and three other American soldiers on February 14, 1971. The book, Killed In Action, contains 22 photographs taken by Steven Warner during his travels around Vietnam, as well as a selection of his human interest articles.


An online exhibit of his photographs titled, As You Were, is posted on the website of the Vietnam Museum, Holmdel. www.njvvmf.org/as-you-werethe- photography-of-stephenwarner.


General Richard Montgomery

The township’s namesake, Gen. Montgomery rose through the ranks of the British Army, but took up the Patriot cause when the American Revolutionary War began in 1775. He became a major general in the Continental Army and is largely known as America’s First National Hero after falling in the Battle of Quebec on New Year’s Eve 1775. He is America’s first general officer to be killed in battle.


Mario Arthur Comizzoli

Montgomery resident Robert Comizzoli’s father, Mario Comizzoli received, the Mariners’ Medal (the equivalent of the Purple Heart in the Merchant Marine Service). Mario died in World War II, along with all 92 crew members aboard the munitions vessel SS Louise Lykes. The ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in January 1943. Robert was only two years old when he lost his father. He knows a story that speaks volumes though. He is told that his father went to see the SS Louise Lykes in Newark while it was being loaded. The cargo consisted of huge aerial bombs, and he was to make the trip across the Atlantic with no escort or convoy. Mario took the mission in spite of the risks, to which Robert’s mother added: “Your father was brave and he liked to do daring things—he once swam across the Hudson River near the George Washington Bridge.” When people hear these stories, they often ask how the nation finds such brave people. Robert’s reply: “They are always here, but in good times we are not so aware of them.”

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