VETERANS REST & RELAXATION
Our Post is proud to be able to provide vacation opportunities for our returning military men and women. Over the last two years, eight families have enjoyed the hospitality of the Ocean City community. Active duty combat veterans, their spouses and children were treated to complete vacation packages.
For the third year, Post 524 welcomed veterans and their families to America’s Favorite Family Resort for an all-expenses-paid, one-week vacation.
“The Veterans Rest and Relaxation Program began in 2013 as a way to pay tribute to servicemen and women for sacrifices made during their time in the military,” said program chairman Steve Cole. “Whenever military personnel are deployed, their families also share in that deployment and we support their efforts, as well.”
Veterans Rest & Relaxation Chairman Steve Cole, accompanied by several members of the Post 524 family, paid a visit to Mayor Jay Gillian this past week and presented him with a certificate of appreciation for his and city council's support of the program. The effort, now in it's third year, provided three well-deserving families with free vacation weeks in our town last summer. The committee is already putting together plans for this year.
Pictured with Mayor Gillian (holding certificate) are (l.-r.) Dept.Vice-Commander Jim Scanlon, Committee Member Joe Masington, Chairman Steve Cole, Committee Member Marty Mozzo and Squadron 524 Commander Mike Byerly.
On Saturday, June 13, Army Master Sgt. Joseph Farrell, his wife, Shannon; and their children, Joe Jr., Allysa, Liam, and Aiden, were escorted across the Route 52 causeway by the American Legion Riders motorcycle team and the Ocean City fire and police departments. They arrived at Post 524 on Bay Avenue and welcomed with gifts from local merchants and the keys to a condominium on the island.
Sgt. Farrell entered the service in 1980 and trained in the US Army Special Forces as a medic. He retired earlier this year after 35 years and advancing to senior battalion medic. He saw action in Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia, Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait, and later in Afghanistan. During his career, Farrell earned the Bronze Star, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation.
Our next guests, the Donahue family, arrived on Sunday, August 30th and were escorted to our Post by the Ocean City Fire and Police Departments and the American Legion Riders from Post 353, Somers Point. He was accompanied by his wife, Krista, their seven year old son, Otter and one year old daughter, Raven.
TSGT Christopher Donohue has spent 16 years in the Marine Corps, the New Jersey Army National Guard and is currently serving as a Tech Sergeant in the United States Air Force. His services include being deployed as a combat adviser and Joint Terminal Attack Controller for the joint U.S./Albanian mission. He was also an adviser for the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) 1st Mobile Strike Force (MSF). Chris also worked with them as they took the lead and helped with the transfer into Operation Resolute Support which was the post-2014 NATO training and advisory mission, which saw the ANA become self-sufficient and rely less on coalition forces. He also received the Bronze medal for his services.
We had another successful R&R effort with the arrival of our last guests of the season, Captain Ryan Bailey and his family, who arrived on Saturday, September 5th escorted by the Ocean City Police and Fire Departments. Ryan was accompanied by his wife, Laurie, their nine year old daughter, Emma, four year old daughter, Eleanor and son, Ryan, six years old. A good number of Post family members were also on hand to welcome the family.
Local businesses supporting the Rest and Relaxation Program throughout the year include: Artisan’s Alcove ($50 gift certificate), Ward’s ($20 gift certificate), Hoy’s 5 & 10 ($50 gift certificate), Sun Rose Words & Music ($25 gift certificate), Fashion Nails (free manicure), Kay Jay’s Doll House ($20 gift certificate), Yoasis Yogurt ($30 gift card), ShopRite ($100 gift certificate), Mallon’s Sticky Buns (one dozen buns), Ocean City Home Bank (beach balls, caps, towels and gift certificates), Acme Markets ($100 gift certificate), Ocean City Coffee Co. ($50 gift certificate), Shriver’s (candy and salt water taffy), Mia’s Christmas Gallery (a gift box assortment), Henry’s ($25 gift certificate), YoGo Factory (gift cards and free sundaes), 34th Street market ($100 gift certificate), Manco & Manco (gift certificates), Spinning Wheel Florists (a bouquet of flowers).
The city of Ocean City is also involved in the R&R Program offering free parking during the families' stays, passes to the municipal golf course, and a one-week pass to the Aquatics and Fitness Center. The Chamber of Commerce has donated welcome baskets and private tours of the Cape May County Zoo are offered by Cape May County.
“The intent of this program is to say ‘thank you for your service’ to our military heroes who have helped keep us safe,” Cole said. “And we do this because it’s not only the right thing to do, it just feels good.”
Thanks to everyone for all of the behind the scenes teamwork all throughout the season and for contributing to another successful year of the program!