By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
LONGPORT – American Legion Post 469 marked Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, in Thomas B. Reed Park at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The service organized by Post Commander Larry Pacentrilli became even more poignant with the announcement that former Post Chaplain Father Donal Sheahan, 84, of Egg Harbor Township had passed away earlier that morning.
“It is fitting the Lord took him on Veterans Day,” Pacentrilli said.
Attorney Bill Mosca said Sheahan came to the United States from Ireland at age 23 shortly after he was ordained as a Catholic priest.
Mosca’s father was good friends with Sheahan, who was a surly, but proud Irishman, Mosca said.
“He was an uncle to all of us,” Mosca said. “He was a brilliant man, with a great intellect, Irish wit, and who had a passion for the poor and oppressed.”
Sheahan worked as a priest in Atlantic City and Margate and was a longtime member of the American Legion Post, where he served as its chaplain for much of that time.
About 10 years ago, after visiting veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Sheahan came up with the idea that the Post should do something for veterans closer to home.
His idea birthed the Wounded Warrior Week program in Longport that provides a worthy veteran recipient and his/her family with a weeklong, all-expense-paid vacation at the Jersey Shore. The program has grown over the years to include a welcoming parade through Ventnor, Margate and Longport, a barbeque, military reception and a vacation home filled with everything a wounded warrior’s family would need to have a first-class vacation.
“Our family supported that effort and will continue to support it in his honor,” Mosca said. “Heaven has another Irish priest.”
Ms. New Jersey Senior America 2018 Suzie Neustadter sang the National Anthem and God Bless America. A bugler played taps for veterans now at rest.
The legion planted three bricks honoring veterans of the past, including Army Airman George F. Scott Jr., Revolutionary War soldier Michael Fackenthal and Vietnam War veteran Earl Mulligan, a longtime Longport resident.
Mulligan’s wife Eileen said her husband of 46 years was drafted by the Army during the Vietnam War and served as a combat engineer building bridges to support the troops.
Mulligan died a year ago in July. After seeing an ad in the Legion’s annual Longport telephone directory promoting the brick paver program, she sent in her check to ensure the longtime resident would be remembered for years to come.
“It was the least I could do for him,” she said.
Although their children Kyleen and Earl Jr. were unable to attend the ceremony, Mulligan’s “fishing buddies” turned out to honor their fellow-fisher.
The paver bearing his name was placed at the base of the borough’s Memorial Monument, a sundial that points to major military battles and historical events in the nation’s history.
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