local heroes

Several times a month, This Is Rutherford will highlight a local 
person who has served our country. 

Thank you, Veterans - we look forward to learning more about you! 

Read about the
Laval Family, 6 brothers from Rutherford who served during WWII

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    Brian L. Hagal

    RHS Graduate 1965

    United States Navy

    Active Duty 1965-1971

    USNR Instructor Naval Reserve Center Clifton NJ 1968-1971

    Rutherford resident for 39 years

    Rank: BM2

    Why I chose to serve:   

    It was in my blood.
    My mother was born, April 27, 1912 at Park Ave and Ames Ave and raised in Rutherford, my
    Grandfather Otto Kellermann enlisted in the National Guard, under Captain Addison Ely in 1893, in Rutherford; during the Spanish American war.
    My father Lawrence Hagal grew up in Hackensack and enlisted in the US Army during World War Two,and served in Aleutian Islands, Alaska. After the war he settled in Rutherford with my mother and was a member of Rutherford Fire Department Engine Company 4, on Ames Ave. Where I was introduced to
    the Fire Department, and the Rutherford First Aid Ambulance Corps.
    In October of 1963 I joined the Ambulance Corps as a youth squad member. In May of 1965 I enlisted in the US Navy Reserve, and served on active duty starting in May of 1966 on the USS Truxtun DLG(N)35, initially in Camden NJ, and in June of 1967 I was transferred to the USS O’Hare DD-889 stationed in
    Norlfolk, Va., part of the Atlantic Fleet. Upon my release from active duty in 1968 I continued my service to the Borough of Rutherford as a member of the First-Aid Squad, serving in various offices including Squad Captain and Corporation President, I am a Life Member of the Squad and the Corps. In March of 1978 I joined the Rutherford Police Department serving 25 years retiring in June 2003 as a Sergeant.
    Although, no longer living in Rutherford, I remain active in civic duties, mostly with the American Legion, having served as Post Commander of the Barnegat American Legion Post 232, and currently the Senior Vice-Commander for the Ocean County American Legion Executive Committee and a Committee Chairman for the Department of New Jersey American Legion. I am currently working for Ocean County Consumer Affairs as a Senior Investigator, still serving our

    Rutherford will always be my HOME no matter where I live.

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    Herbert G. Miller, Jr


    RHS Graduate 1959

    United States Army

    Active Duty 1966 - 1970

    Bud grew up in Rutherford and attended Union School. He was a resident of Rutherford for 28 years.

    Rank:  Captain


    Germany, Vietnam and the USA

    About Bud Miller:   

    After three years of trying, he was accepted at the United States Military Academy at West Point where he graduated in 1966 as a 2nd Lt in the Army. He chose to serve my country because he wanted to help ensure that we could try to maintain peace in our world.

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    Herbert G. Miller, MD

    RHS Graduate 1927

    United States Navy

    Active Duty 1941 - 1945

    Life Long Rutherford Resident

    Rank:  Lieutenant


    Served as a Doctor in the Pacific Arena

    About Dr. Miller:   He was a family doctor and practiced medicine until he was 87 years old. For several of his earlier years, he was the RHS football team doctor. He served on the RHS Board of Education for several years during the 50’s and 60’s.  During his professional lifetime he had, at different times, his offices on Montross Ave, Hackett Place, Prospect Place and Chestnut Street. The Rutherford HS awarded him the Distinguished Graduate Award. He and his wife, Ada, were awarded the Rutherford Citizens of the Year Award.

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    Bill Galloway

    RHS Graduate 1946

    United States Army

    Active Duty 1946-1948

    Life Long Rutherford Resident

    Rank:  Private - tank division


     Georgia, Texas, and Kentucky

    Why I chose to serve:   I was drafted but with the GI Bill of Rights I was able to serve for my mandatory two years and receive a free college education.  Seventy percent of us on campus were veterans.

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    John Mannion, Sr.

    United States Air Force

    Active Duty 1966 to 1972 and Reserves 1974 to 2005

    1968 Active Duty Vietnam Tour and Reserves 1992 Desert Storm and 2003 Noble Eagle IRAQ

    Rutherford Resident for 45 years

    Rank:  Chief Master Sergeant (CMSGT)


    Cam Ran Bay – and Western Highlands

    Why I chose to serve:   Had some family and friends who served, loved the Air Force, and believed it was what I should do.

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    Keith Bott

    US Army (Infantry)


    RHS Graduate 1996

    Rank:  Captain


    2003-2004: Yusafiya, Iraq

    2008-2009: Samarra, Iraq

    Why I chose to serve:   After graduating college I worked at an investment bank in lower Manhattan.  After September 11, 2001 I felt compelled to join the military and the US Army seemed like a good fit.

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    Robert Hansen

    108th Tactical Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard

    1981 - 2019

    Rutherford resident for 57 years

    RHS graduate '80

    Current Commander of American Legion Post 109

    Rank:  I retired as a Chief Master Sergeant (E9).  At that time I was the Cyberspace Defense Operations Manager at the 140th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard.

    Deployment:  I was activated / deployed a few times during my career.  I was deployed to Turkey three times for Operation Northern Watch (the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Northern Iraq) - in fact, I was in Turkey on September 11, 2001.  Following the Sept. 11 attacks, my unit, the 108th Air Refueling Wing was activated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle where we spent some time at a location in Southwest Asia providing areal refueling capability to coalition military aircraft.  


    Additionally, I was also mobilized a few times as a member of the 'NJ Guard'.  For instance in 2013 during Hurricane Irene - where we stood up and ran an evacuation shelter at the Izod Center (we had approximately 100 cots set up on the floor of the basketball court). And, in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy - where we spent time before and during the hurricane standing up and running a shelter out of a school in Long Branch and then after the hurricane we spent approximately two weeks in Brick NJ (living in the Brick NJ Recreation Department facility) where we provided security and search & rescue assistance.

    Why I chose to serve:   My uncle was a member of the New Jersey Air National Guard and he took my family to McGuire Air Force Base when I was about 10 years old.  The moment that I saw the fighter aircraft at the base, I knew that I wanted to be in the military - just to be a part of the team which was working on something that looked so cool.  When I was old enough to enlist, the idea of contributing and helping to make a difference was the reason that I joined - fortunate that the Air National Guard option was available to allow me to go to school and also start a military career.  The reason that I remained a member for so long (almost 38 years) was that I was contributing and making a difference and doing it alongside the most amazing people.

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    Jake Bunch

    US Army 

    1968 - 1970

    Rutherford resident for 4 years

    2011 to 2014 - Active Duty

    2015 to Present - Reserves

    Rank:  Currently a Captain

    Deployment:    Never deployed to a combat zone but I was on a tour to South Korea when Kim Jong-il passed away and Kim Jong-un took reign. Caused a little bit of excitement but no direct action.                

    Why I chose to serve:   In all honesty, I was a History major and I was told my two options were law school or teaching. So I commissioned as an officer instead. I chose the army because in college I read a great book called Horse Soldiers, a book about 13 Special Forces Soldiers going in to Afghanistan immediately after 9/11 happened. Very exciting.  Fun fact: when I went to Officer Candidate School one of the characters from the book was my platoon trainer.

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    Michael Schmeding

    US Marines 

    1968 - 1970

    Rutherford resident for 66 years
    RHS graduate ‘67
    Member of the First Induction into the Bulldog Athletic Hall of Fame 

    Rank:  Lance Corporal

    Deployment:   Vietnam                

    Why I chose to serve:   I was a student at Arizona State University during the Vietnam War and protests on campus everyday and in the media, both for and against the war, left me in limbo.  I had to find out for myself what it was all about, so I left school and enlisted for two years in the Marines.

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    Charlie Garabedian

    US Marines 

    1942 - 1945

    Rutherford resident for over

    70 years 

    Rank:  Corporal and Private First Class

    Deployment:   Pacific (specifically Japan)                                                                                

    Why I chose to serve:   I always knew that I could put my all into whatever I did.  I always put forth my best efforts to make sure I never let my men down.  I fought hard for our country.

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    Don Bianchi

    US Navy 

    1959 - 1963

    Rutherford resident for 32 years 

    Rank:  BT2 (Boiler Tender Second Class)


    Deployment:   After the recommissioning of the USS Little Rock in Philadelphia, I served 2 deployments to the Mediterranean and was involved in the Bay of Pigs encounter in Cuba.                                                                                

    Why I chose to serve:   I love my country and the freedom it provided me. I wanted to give that freedom to other people.  The Navy enabled me to see the world and is a good choice if someone is conflicted with making a decision for their life and future. It offers chances for careers in different areas now more so than ever. 

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    Craig Dimitroff

    US Army (Infantry)

    2001-2004, 2007-2008

    Rutherford resident for 14 years 

    Rank:  Captain


    Deployment:   Afghanistan (twice) and Iraq (once)


    Why I chose to serve:  I joined the Army to be part of one of the very best teams in the world serving something greater than myself.  

  • Fred Ernst

    Fred Ernst

    US Army

    1970 - 1972

    Rutherford resident for 28 years RHS Class of‘68

    Rank:  Specialist 4th class


    Deployment:   Fort Huachuca, Arizona and then Berlin Brigade, Berlin Germany


    Why I chose to serve:  I believe that America is the best country in the world and that everyone who lives here should contribute, in some way to the furtherance of the American standard.  The military is one way to do that. Currently, I am retired as a Chief from the Passaic County Sheriff's Department (Another way to contribute to the County, State and Country).  

  • Henry Walker

    Howard Walker

    U.S. Navy


    Becton Regional Class of ’62

    Rutherford Resident for 59 years

    Rank:  3rd Class Aviation Boatswain Mate



    I went to Great Lakes United Navy Training Center Illinois for basic training.  I then went to Memphis Tennessee air station September 1962 for training. From there I went to the Brooklyn New York Naval Boat yard were my ship was being built. On February 22, 1964 the ship was commissioned.  I became a plank owner, which meant when the ship was decommissioned I could get a plank or piece of her. I went to Guantanamo Cuba twice for training. My division was V division, which is the aviation division. We were the first in our class to get an E for excellence. This was for the flight deck crew.

    I was a third class Aviation Boatswain Mate that handled the direction of the helicopter pilots landing and launching.  We brought on supplies or aided in the launching and recovery of Marine during operations.

    Our ship went on a NATO cruise to the Mediterranean with our allies for training. During the exercise we lost two helicopters.  The one Pilot was the first to land on our ship in Cuba. Here is an example of how dangerous it is even if there is no conflict for freedom.

    Our ship also participated in the evacuation of Americans from Santo Domingo during a revolution.  We also lost young service sailors and soldiers. This is the price we pay for freedom.

    I was to be married on May 29, 1965, but the revolution had me off the shore of Santo Domingo.  I was able to get home 3 days before the wedding. During that year before I got out I was only able to see my wife for 13 days.  We sacrifice a lot for all of us.

    I got extended because of Vietnam, so I served 4 years 1 month and 28 days.


    Why I chose to serve:  I am honored to be a veteran to have served with the veterans before me, with me and after me.

  • Stephen Kaufman

    Stephen Kaufman

    United States Marine Corps (currently serving)

    Life-long Rutherford Resident

    RHS Class of 2015

    Rank:  I have been promoted from E-1, all the way to E-4, which is Private, Private First Class, Lance Corporal, and then Corporal. I am currently a Corporal of Marines, which is an NCO in the Marine Corps. (Non-Commissioned Officer)


    Deployment:  I just recently returned home from being stationed in Okinawa, Japan for 3 years (April 2016-April 2019). It was a great experience;  learning about their culture, and just living in their beautiful country. The food there was absolutely amazing, along with the views of the mountains and oceans that they have to offer.  I will be stationed somewhere on the East Coast of the U.S. for the next 3 years.


    Why I chose to serve:  There are a lot of reasons as to why I joined the military, especially the Marine Corps. I wanted to be different and stand out amongst my peers, and didn’t want to go the traditional route of going to college.  I was very interested in the military and each branch at a young age, especially after 9/11. I would always watch the documentaries every year and it would just pique my interest even more. After a lot of consideration, I decided the Marine Corps had the most to offer me.  Joining the Military, especially the Marine Corps is one thing I will never regret doing. It has taught me a lot of valuable things, such as being a leader, and taking care of others before myself, as well as a lot of other things. The military is a great tool to get you on the right path to success.

  • Leyla and Matt Kuznia

    Leyla Kuznia

    U.S. Army

    2005 - 2012

    Rutherford Resident for 2 years

    Rank:  Sergeant


    Deployment:  Afghanistan


    Why I chose to serve:  As an immigrant, it was an opportunity to give back and give thanks to the country for welcoming me.

    Matt Kuznia

    U.S. Army

    2005 - 2012

    Rutherford Resident for 2 years

    Rank:  Staff Sergeant


    Deployment:  Afghanistan


    Why I chose to serve:  It was an opportunity to create my own path in life and experience more of what life and the world has to offer.

  • Joseph Merli

    Joseph Merli

    U.S. Army


    Rutherford Resident for 56 years, RHS Class of '68


    Rank:  Specialist 4th class



    I never left the states, serving

    11 months at Ft.Dix NJ and 13 months at Ft.Lewis Washington. I attained the rank of Spec 4 (specialist fourth class) and was honorably discharged in April 1971.


    Why I chose to serve:  My oldest brother Tom graduated high school and went right into the Army.  The next year my older brother Pete graduated high school and went into the Navy so I just followed their lead and went into the Army right out of high school.   Hard to believe that this past April, it was 50 years ago that I enlisted .

  • Dustin Doyle

    Dustin Doyle

    U.S. Air Force 2005-2011

    Rutherford Resident since 2012


    Rank:  Captain


    Deployment:  In 2010, I deployed to Haiti with a humanitarian relief Contingency Response Group following the earthquake that devastated the country. I was slotted to deploy to Afghanistan in 2012, but ended up leaving the military for my current job.


    Why I chose to serve:  My dad served in the U.S. Navy, and throughout childhood I had the privilege of seeing what an amazing group of people our service members are. For this reason, I had always considered military as a future career. That said, I left for college fully intending to follow up with law school.  On 09/10/2001, my dad and I started driving from WA State to Ohio where I went to college. On 9/11, we listened real time as the attacks on our country unfolded and life as we knew it changed. Seeing our country go to war, and remembering the pride our small military town had in our service members changed my direction.  I joined the ROTC program in my sophomore year of college and ultimately commissioned into the USAF on May 7, 2005. It’s hands down the best choice I ever made. The experience and discipline I gained while serving has been invaluable, and the people I served with are, to this day, among the best people I’ve ever met.

  • Russell Schmehl

    Russell Schmehl

    U.S. Navy 1964-1968

    RHS Class of '59


    Rank:  Lieutenant Jr. Grade


    USS Walker (DD-517)  Stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  6 month deployment operations included Taiwan Patrol, Vietnam Gunfire Support,, Anti-Submarine Warfare and protecting the Carrier group against Russian Interference.  Temporary stations included OCS Newport RI, and Navy Supply School, Athens, Ga.


    Why I chose to serve:  Initially received draft notice during Senior year in College and felt I could better serve signing up for Navy Officer Candidate School