By MADDY VITALE
Air Force Airman First Class Glenda Williams looked surprised Sunday afternoon as she stepped out of her SUV and saw a large crowd of well-wishers at the Ocean City American Legion Post 524.
They were there to greet her and her husband, Marine Staff Sgt. James Williams, and their two children, Alcie, 14, and 15-year-old son, Joshua.
“This is amazing,” Glenda Williams said about the warm welcome her family received. “We knew it would be something, but we didn’t expect this much. We don’t feel like we deserve all of this.”
The family was selected to be treated to a free weeklong vacation in the resort, courtesy of American Legion Post 524, at a donated condominium at Watson’s Hotel.
They also received gifts from local businesses, from gift cards to candies and ride tickets. On Monday, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian will host the family and present them with a ceremonial key to the city.
The program, in its ninth year, gives military families that have served, or are serving, time to just relax as a way to thank them for their service and sacrifice.
Following a police and fire department motorcade and an escort into town by the Legion Riders motorcycle brigade, the Williams family was recognized for their service.
Post 524 Commander Bob Marzulli thanked the family and told them he hoped they would enjoy their stay. Joe Masington and Jerry Bonner, co-chairmen of the R&R committee, said that their service is appreciated.
“This is one of our premier projects,” Masington said of the R&R program. “This is about the Williams family.”
Masington noted in a ceremony at the Post, where a room filled with people gathered to wish the family well, that the fact both husband and wife serve in the military is so appreciated.
“We thank you for your service,” he said.
Bonner thanked the businesses and the volunteers from the post and the community who came together to make the R&R program possible and to give deserving families such as the Williams family time together to just enjoy themselves.
During the ceremony, Jane French, of the South Jersey Quilts of Valor Foundation, presented the family with personalized, handmade quilts. The pattern and stitching represented the Marines and Air Force colors and designs.
The children wrapped their parents in the quilts in the touching ceremonies.
The quilts are a piece of custom-made appreciation. They were wrapped around James and Glenda Williams, signifying comfort for each of them.
In another moving moment during the ceremony, Post member Steve Cole presented the Williams children with medals of appreciation.
The family is looking forward to a fun-filled week at the shore. Joshua noted that he wants to spend time on the beach. Both he and Alcie said they can’t wait to ride the rollercoasters.
Among other highlights of the ceremony was a gift presented on behalf of Cape May County by Commissioner E. Marie Hayes, liaison to the Cape May County Park & Zoo. Hayes announced a special treat for the Williams family – a private tour of the zoo whenever they wish to use the passes.
The Williams family was chosen for the free vacation through a selection process.
James Williams grew up in Boston, joining the Marine Corps in 2008. His first duty station was Hawaii, where he met and married Glenda, originally from Clearwater, Fla.
He was deployed to Afghanistan twice while the couple lived in Hawaii, and after a subsequent move to California, he was re-deployed to Afghanistan for a third time.
The couple then moved to Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, N.C., where James was deployed to Honduras.
While living in North Carolina, Glenda Williams decided to join the Air Force. They both got orders to report to Joint Base Dix/McGuire/Lakehurst, New Jersey, where they currently live.
For more information about American Legion Post 524 call 609-398-1751 or visit www.legion524ocnj.org.