When the Italian people came to this country, they were not greeted with free legal aid to fight deportation. They were not given financial aid or the in state college tuition rate. Instead they were handed a shovel and built the roads and did the jobs that no one else wanted to do so that their children could have a better life. They were part of what is known as, "The Greatest Generation." One of the biggest war heroes of that generation was Raritan Borough's John Basilone.

Sgt. Basilone received the nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor for heroism, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, as well as the Navy cross. Basilone is the only enlisted Marine to do so. He also received the Purple Heart and was killed fighting at Iwo Jima after requesting to go rejoin the war rather than stay home and sell war bonds. He even turned down a commission to do so.

Each year, Basilone's home town of Raritan celebrates his heroism with a parade in his honor. I was lucky enough to be at his induction into the New Jersey Hall Of Fame.

You would think that such a man would be honored at least with a school named after him, if not a town in New Jersey, but at least it's happening in Colle Sannita. It's a small town of about 2400 people in the mountains 50 miles northeast of Naples where a street will be named in Basilone's honor when it becomes a sister city to Raritan Borough in August. Colle Sannita is where Basilone's father grew up before he came here in 1903.

The John Basilone Memorial Foundation, with its mission to keep alive Basilone's legacy and to help veterans was started 5 years ago and continues to grow. There will be a 'Basilone Weekend" in Raritan Borough Sept 21 and 22, complete with a parade, a Manila Madness no Excuses 5k Run through the streets and of course food trucks!

The entry fee for the race is $30 and proceeds benefit Fisher House, a nonprofit network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. The race will also benefit the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset.

You can register by visiting basilonefoundation.com or calling 908-864-6818.

As great as it is that Sgt. Basilone will be honored in Italy, I still think there is more that can be done to honor him right here in New Jersey. I truly can't think of a bigger hero to come from here.

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