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Veterans Day Vigil Honors Roughly 200 New Jersey Veterans Affairs Home Residents Who Died From COVID-19

EDISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- This Veterans Day, we remember the roughly 200 veterans who died this year from the coronavirus at two Veterans Affairs homes in New Jersey.

They sacrificed so much for our country, yet their loved ones never had the chance to say goodbye.

A special vigil was held just for them Wednesday.

The Star-Spangled Banner was performed, a salute more meaningful than ever, at Roosevelt Park in Edison.

Candles lined photos of the veterans who died this year from the coronavirus at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home. (Credit: CBS2)

Candles lined photos of the veterans who died this year from the coronavirus at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home.

For Regina Constantino Discenza, it's the first Veterans Day without her parents, Charles and Madeline.

"Today is the one-month anniversary of her death, and her death is due to the negligent care at Menlo Park," Discenza told CBS2's Lisa Rozner.

Her father, an Army veteran, died in April at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home.

He will not see his grandson follow in his footsteps to the Navy.

RELATED STORY -- Department Of Justice Launches Civil Rights Investigation Into New Jersey's State-Run Veterans Homes

It's estimated around 192 residents fatally contracted the coronavirus in the state's Menlo Park and Paramus veterans homes.

Loved ones have said at one point, the facilities did not have staff or patients wearing masks and COVID-positive residents were allowed to roam the hallways.

In October, the Department of Justice announced it's investigating the state for possibly understating the number of deaths and the quality of medical care.

Outside the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home, there were a few patriotic flags for Veterans Day. (Credit: CBS2)

Outside the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home, there were only a few patriotic flags.

Mitchell Haber says his father, Arnold, was stationed in Germany in the Korean War and died of the coronavirus at the home at the age of 91.

"I ran to his nurse to get him medication and they said, 'Oh no, we're looking him over,'" Haber said. "He never called me and my father was dead a week later ... They fought for this country, and for them to go out the way they went out is horrible, it's just horrible."

RELATED STORY: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy Announces New Leadership For State Department Of Military And Veterans Affairs

Arnold's wife, Rena, says she just wants to see veterans treated better.

"He was a wonderful father and a wonderful husband. I was married 65 years," she said.

RELATED STORY: Memorial Day Takes On Added Meaning At Paramus Veterans Home, Where Dozens Of Residents Succumbed To COVID-19

"The governor needs to let people back in facilities. The families need to be with their loved ones, and they should not die alone," Discenza said.

"The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs needs objective oversight," said Kimberly Peck, the daughter of a veteran.

A governor's spokesperson would not comment on the federal investigation but previously claimed he followed CDC guidelines.

The State Attorney General opened his own investigation in April.


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