By MADDY VITALE
Members of the military were remembered, honored and recognized for their service and their sacrifices during a Veterans Day ceremony Saturday at the Ocean City Tabernacle.
In addition to recognizing the veterans, there were prayers and songs during the program.
Mayor Jay Gillian reflected on the importance of the day.
“I’d like to start by thanking all of those here today who have served and defended our country,” he said. “Our veterans, active service members, reservists, help keep our nation safe and free.”
Gillian continued, “On behalf of everyone here in Ocean City, I want to thank you. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge all of the families who make the sacrifices. To all of the mothers, fathers, spouses and children of our military men and women, we thank you, too. Your love and support is the backbone of this nation and must not be forgotten.”
Video courtesy of Martin Fiedler, Just Right TV Productions and Ocean City
While veterans represent those who have served, featured speaker Connor Clark, an Ocean City High School senior who is enlisting in the U.S. Army upon graduation, represents the future, Gillian noted.
Before Clark came up to the podium to say a few words, however, Army Staff Sgt. Jordan Douglass, of the Mays Landing Army Recruitment office, said a few words about the young man, whom he described as a “top” recruit.
“As we salute our veterans today, let us also look toward the future, when the next generation will stand ready to carry the torch of service. Connor Clark is my future Army soldier,” Douglass said. “He showcases all the attributes that we look for in an Army soldier, loyalty, duty respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. I’m proud to have him on our team and proud to call him a soldier in the United States Army.”
Clark, 18, of Upper Township, walked up to the microphone and looked out at the audience. And with a confident delivery, he spoke of his decision to enlist.
He said his decision to join the Army was, “deeply rooted in a profound sense of duty and a sincere commitment to serving our country.”
“I am inspired by the sacrifices made by you and I’m driven by a genuine desire to contribute to the rich legacy of service that defines the honorable community of those who have worn the uniform,” Clark said.
Clark emphasized that he does not take his decision lightly and knows there will be many responsibilities.
“I take this journey with a deep respect for the sacrifices you have made and your families as well,” he said while addressing the veterans in the room. “Stepping into your footsteps, I recognize the responsibility to stand alongside you and carry forward the torch of service.”
Throughout the service, there were different longstanding traditions highlighted, including the presentation of colors and the laying of the wreath.
VFW Post 6650 veteran Jim Zbikowski performed the invocation, while Pat Cummings, senior vice commander of American Legion Post 524 presided over the benediction.
And Callie Bellwoar sang the National Anthem and God Bless America.
Michael Allegretto, aide to the mayor, emceed the ceremony. Among the attendees were some county and local dignitaries, including Cape May County Surrogate E. Marie Hayes, Ocean City Councilmen Terry Crowley and Dave Winslow and Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michele Gillian.
Remarks given by VFW 6650 Commander Mike Morrissey were at the beginning of the program, shortly before he led the Pledge of Allegiance. His message gave the audience a strong perspective from a veteran about why veterans should be respected, honored, cherished and never forgotten for their service and sacrifices.
“Just as a reminder, it is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion. It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the veteran not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble,” Morrissey said.
He continued, “It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote. And it is the veteran who salutes the flag, so at this time I would like you to join me in saluting the flag.”
After the flag salute, Morrissey ended his remarks with this, “And also, it is the veteran who should be thanked, and not forgotten.”
After the service, the wreath was displayed across the street from the Ocean City Tabernacle in Veterans Memorial Park.
Families walked over to view the wreath up close.
Kaitlyn McChesney, of South Carolina who was visiting family in Ocean City, with her son, Jack, and her family gathered in the park.
“It’s so beautiful,” McChesney, whose family members are in the military, said of the wreath and noted the importance of the day.