All three Downbeach communities turned out Tuesday, Sept. 10 to welcome Longport American Legion Post 469 Wounded Warrior Week recipient Joe Hahn and his family to their home-away-from home. It was the eighth time the Legion Post provided a wounded warrior with a week-long, all-expense-paid vacation at the Jersey Shore.
Downbeach residents holding American flags and welcome signs lined the motorcade route through Ventnor, Margate and Longport as a way to give a hero’s welcome to a member of the military who was injured in the line of duty and thank them for their service. Large crowds gathered at Ventnor City Hall, where the Fire Department raised its ladder to wave the American flag, and at the Margate Public Library.
Members of the American Legion Riders of Somers Point and the firefighters’ Red Knights from Atlantic, Cumberland and Cape May counties were there on customized Harleys to welcome their brother and lead the caravan.
“This is a great opportunity for the community to come together to honor someone who sacrificed for our nation,” said Marine Corps veteran Al Anzardo of Egg Harbor Township. “It’s like paying it forward. I hope they truly enjoy the plans we made for them for the week. They earned it.”
Hahn, who now lives in Oklahoma, his wife Morgan, and four sons, Hunter, 12, Blake, 5, Clayton, 3, and Gunner, 18 months, were picked up by Legion members at Philadelphia International Airport and transported to the Ventnor Plaza shopping center aboard an Atlantic City Jitney. Upon arrival, the family transferred to a white convertible stretch limousine for the motorcade down Dorset and Atlantic Avenues to the park behind Longport Borough Hall where they were escorted by members of the Atlantic City High School Junior ROTC Color Guard.
Longport Mayor Nicholas Russo welcomed the family to Longport and thanked the American Legion Post for making Hahn’s visit possible. He spoke to the symbolism of honoring Hahn, who was injured serving his country.
“Joe, you not only represent yourself, but you represent every single wounded warrior,” Russo said.
As a show of respect from one comrade to another, a member of the Legion Riders gave a ceremonial hand-off of a “challenge coin,” a protocol developed by the Legion Riders. On one side is the insignia of the Legion Riders, on the other the U.S. Navy emblem.
Members of the Quilts of Valor Foundation South Jersey Chapter wrapped Hahn in a red, white and blue quilt that was touched by many hands in recognition of his sacrifices.
Hahn joined the military following the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001 and spent 13 years as a U.S. Navy Seal trained in underwater demolition. Hahn’s legs were shattered in two separate incidents during preparations for high risk missions and deployments stateside.
He is the recipient of the Purple Heart, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
“We are truly honored to welcome such a distinguished service member,” said Jim Delaney, president of the Atlantic County chapter of the Red Knights. “He is a true American hero.”
The family’s all-expense-paid week in Longport will include a refrigerator stocked with food and beverages, dinners at fabulous restaurants, fishing/crabbing expeditions, a visit to the Lucy the Elephant, and more, all donated by local families and businesses. They will stay in a luxurious beach-block home donated by a prominent Longport family.
Hahn will be formally honored at a reception Sunday evening at Café Luciano in Seaview Harbor.