LONGPORT – The American Legion Post 469 and its contributors held a recognition ceremony and reception Sunday, Sept. 15 for Wounded Warrior Week recipient U.S. Navy Seal (Ret.) Joe Hahn. Local, state and federal officials were on hand to present proclamations and awards to a “true American hero,” Post Commander Larry Pacentrilli said.
About 100 people attended the event held in the courtyard at Café Luciano at Seaview Harbor Marina. The Jersey Girls acapella group sang the national anthem and “God Bless America” and VFW Post 2189 served as Color Guard. The ceremony and dinner reception was the culmination of a week-long all-expenses-paid vacation in Longport for the wounded warrior and his family.
Mayor Nicholas Russo said Hahn is a “symbol” of all wounded warriors who have given so much for the country and provided him with a more timely accolade.
“I never saw Joe in the performance of his duties. But in the past week, I saw him in the performance of his fatherly duties and from what I saw, these kids couldn’t ask for a better dad,” Russo said.
He presented Hahn with a Key to the Borough of Longport.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said Hahn would receive a proclamation from the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders recognizing him for his considerable heroism and bravery during his 13 years as a Navy Seal and for multiple injuries sustained during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hahn’s story reads like a Hollywood movie, Levinson said.
According to his biography, Hahn, 36, was born in Texas, and lived in more than 50 foster homes after his mother died of cancer. He went on to graduate high school third in his class and was attending Texas A&M University on scholarships to study biomedical science when the terrorists struck on that fateful day. Hahn enlisted in the Navy and after SEAL training was deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan and other locales where he was involved in hundreds of missions targeting. He was multiply injured in separate incidents and was medically discharged in 2017. A grenade that exploded near Hahn and his comrades earned him the Purple Heart.
“He is the type of individual that makes this country great and why we are so incredibly proud to be Americans,” Levinson said.
Today, Hahn subcontracts and provides consulting services and provides training and personal security while working to complete his degree.
New Jersey Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato were on hand to present proclamations from the New Jersey Assembly, the highest honor state legislators can bestow on an individual.
Hahn received accolades from four-time Purple Heart recipient Marco Polo Smigliani, who read a very long list of Hahn’s awards, commendations and service medals. He presented a proclamation from the New Jersey State Senate secured by Sen. Chris Brown who was unable to attend.
“America needs more people like Joseph,” Smigliani said, thanking his wife Morgan for sacrifices made as a military spouse.
Capt. Lou Cavaliere, U.S. Navy (Ret.) of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, presented Hahn with the Four Chaplains’ “Legion of Honor,” which is given to those whose actions reflect the sacrifices made by four chaplains – a priest, rabbi, and two Protestant ministers – aboard the sinking “Dorchester” during World War II who gave up their life jackets so their shipmates could live. Cavaliere also presented Hahn with a scholarship award.
Hahn, who enlisted in the Navy following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, was also presented with an American Flag of Honor that flew over the 9-11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site earlier this year.
U.S. Congressman Jeff Van Drew presented him with a proclamation from the House of Representatives and a challenge coin, “a sign of friendship and unity,” and said that he would give an address on the floor of the House of Representative telling Hahn’s story, which will be broadcast across America on C-SPAN.
Hahn’s spouse Morgan was also presented with gifts from the American Legion Auxiliary.
Pacentrilli recounted the family’s activities during the week, which were all funded by the generous contributors in attendance, including local families, businesses and veterans’ groups. According to Hahn’s son Hunter, 12, the visit to Playland on the Ocean City boardwalk was his favorite part of the vacation.
Although he declined speaking during the event, Hahn shared his feelings privately about his week in Longport.
The Hahn family was escorted into Longport Tuesday, Sept. 10 in a surprise motorcade led by American Legion Riders and police and fire apparatus from all three Downbeach communities. He was formally welcomed to the beachfront community by the mayor and presented with his very own Quilt of Valor.
During the week, Hahn attended the Longport and Atlantic City/Ventnor 9-11 ceremonies. Dolores and Joe Wilson provided babysitting services for Joe and Morgan’s nights out on the town.
“Joe has not been very comfortable with all the fuss being made over him,” Pacentrilli said.
Although Hahn’s younger sons are too young to understand, Hunter knows his father was recognized as “a true American hero,” Pacentrilli said.