New Color Guard Takes First Place
For the first time in its 85-year history, the Wanamassa Volunteer Fire Company has its own color guard.
The company, located in Ocean Township, began the unit as a way to honor a member of the group, Jim Pemberton Jr., who died.
“We all loved him,” said assistant chief Mike Evans, a member of the fire company for 27 years, about Pemberton. “He was a really great guy. He’s really missed around here.”
The color guard has approximately nine members, including Steve Grant, Ed Foley, Ron Booker, Meghan Brewer, Paul Bradley, Evans, Al Dowling and Dan Moore.
Several members of the group began to talk about forming a color guard to honor Pemberton and to represent the company, which was formed in 1921.
“We got a lot of support from the fire company,” said Brewer.
Bradley, Brewer and Dowling worked on organizing the new group.
Brewer, who was enrolled in the ROTC program in high school, and Bradley, who served on the colorguard for funeral detail while in the United States Navy, worked to make sure the colorguard got the details right.
“I have the basics, but Paul makes sure that stuff is up to military standard,” Brewer said.
A company flag was created using a new patch that had been designed, said Evans.
The group wears standard blue firemen uniforms that are adorned with a white ascot, white shoulder cord, and white gloves.
The firefighters each pay half of the cost for their uniforms, which are over $350 for the basic blue outfit.
Evans said the company holds fund-raisers each year to help pay the remaining costs.
“We appreciate everybody who supports us for that,” he said.
Each member of the group holds something while they march. Two members hold flags (firehouse, American flag) and two other members hold nickel- plated gold axes.
The color guard made its debut at the July 4th parade in Asbury Park, where they were named the best appearing fire apartment.
“We were honored and happy to receive the award for best appearing fire department,” Evans said.
“The commissioners were very pleased,” said Ron Booker.
“It was hot,” said Bradley, adding, “It was a lot of fun.”
“We always get a very warm homecoming in Asbury,” Brewer said.
He gave credit to the color guard members for the time and effort they have put in as volunteers.
Brewer said the members have caught on quickly to learning how to march and move in step, despite the fact that most were novices to color guard.
“A lot of guys in the company didn’t have any formal training,” she said.
Bradley said that when the group marches “in sequence it looks sharp.”
The color guard practices once a month and more frequently when preparing for an event
“We just wanted to show a lot of pride and honor in the company,” Brewer said.
“A lot of companies don’t have this,” Bradley said. “This is unique.”
Brewer said the group would like to perform at the National Fire Academy in Emmittsburg, Maryland.
The company is also starting an honor guard, which only serves on funeral detail.
Evans described the company as a “close-knit group.” There are 35 active members and the company is always seeking new members. The firehouse is located at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Wickapecko Drive across from the First Aid Squad building.