Welcome to Veteran’s Day 2020 in Somerville. One year has passed since we last gathered here in Veteran’s Plaza to pay tribute to the countless veterans who have served America during times of peace and war. We pause to remember the bravery shown by so many of our fellow countrymen and women, and we offer our profound gratitude for the hardships they endured to protect the values that make America a beacon of hope to people all over the world.
Millions of citizen-soldiers have earned the mantle of “Veteran”, and each one of them has a unique story. As we mark one hundred and two years since the end of World War I, I would like to introduce you to two young men from Somerville whose very different paths resulted in their ultimate sacrifice twenty-seven days and over three thousand miles apart in 1918.
Ingvor Peterson was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1894. He came to Somerville by way of Brooklyn, NY, then neighboring Raritan before settling on Altamont Place. His fourteen month military service ended on November 3, 1918 when he was killed in action at the tender age of twenty-four, only eight days before the armistice ending the war was signed. Sergeant Peterson is buried in the United States Military Cemetery at Romagne, France, alongside over fourteen thousand of his fellow-American doughboys. It is somehow fitting that Sergeant Peterson found eternal rest in his native European soil.
Marshall Webb’s Great War experience only covered one hundred and eighty-one miles and lasted but sixty-seven days, but it is no less worthy of mention today. Born in Somerville in 1896, Private Webb died of pneumonia in a military hospital in upstate New York on October 7, 1918 at age 22 and is buried here in New Cemetery on South Bridge Street. If you visit our War Memorial on nearby Culver Street, you will be standing within one hundred feet of Marshall’s childhood home at #19 Culver Street. He probably played in that field as a young boy. Now the site stands in silent tribute to his and many other lives cut short.
Two different men, two different lives, one common bond. Love of country, selfless sacrifice, unrealized potential, loved ones left behind in mourning. When we leave here today to face the challenges that surround our community and our entire nation, let us remember Ingvor Peterson and Marshall Webb. Let us draw strength from their courage as they drew their last breaths far from home and family, and let us pledge to show the same resolve in working together to advance the promise of America so dear to us all. May God continue to bless our veterans, our Somerville, and our United States of America. Thank you.
Mayor Dennis Sullivan
Somerville, New Jersey
November 11, 2020