A young boy lines the parade route with his handmade sign.


The Downbeach communities of Ventnor, Margate and Longport welcomed this year’s recipient of American Legion Post 469’s Wounded Warrior Week honor. Each year, the post contacts the branches of America’s military to find a worthy recipient who has demonstrated resiliency despite suffering devastating injuries in service to the nation and gives them the festive “welcome home” they missed due to injuries.

This year, Downbeach residents and officials turned out to welcome U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Trevor Brunell and his wife Kara, a nurse who cared for him at Walter Reed Army Hospital, as they arrived for a weeklong, all-expense-paid vacation from their home in Columbus, Georgia.

Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman and Longport Mayor Nicholas Russo were on hand to greet them as the unsuspecting newlyweds arrived at Ventnor Plaza shopping center. Although they knew they were recipients of a weeklong vacation, they did not know about the welcome parade and barbeque they were about to experience.

Holtzman presented the couple with a swag bag filled with Ventnor memorabilia. Members of the Ladies Auxiliary presented Kara with a beautiful bouquet of red roses, blue cymbidium orchids and white carnations made and donated by RainFlorest flower shop on Dorset Avenue. The couple was escorted to a long, white limousine that bore their names for the 4.5-mile ride to the park behind Longport Borough Hall, where Post Commander Larry Pacentrilli welcomed them to South Jersey.

Residents lined the route as the caravan, led by the American Legion Riders on their Harley motorcycles, waving American flags and holding up handmade posters thanking Trevor and Kara Brunell for their service.

While he was at Walter Reed, Kara, a registered nurse, provided Brunell with the care he needed to recover. They started dating in 2019, fell in love and were married in February. In addition to caring for her husband, Kara also cared for another Wounded Warrior Week recipient – Army Maj. Todd Berrios of Crestview, Florida, who was the Legion’s honoree in 2021, Ross said.

A crowd of well-wishers gathered in the park behind Longport Borough Hall as Russo welcomed them to Longport.

In his welcome address, Russo remarked about the symbolism surrounding the welcome celebration. The crowd represented every American who wants to say, “thank you for your service,” Russo said.

“You’re here today for us to show our appreciation for the wounds you may have suffered, both externally and internally, but you are also here to represent every single wounded warrior. It is impossible to do this for every single man or woman who came back with an injury.”

Unlike past years, where only the wounded warrior received a special honor “touched by many hands,” this year, representatives of the South Jersey Chapter of the Quilts of Valor program presented both of them with a beautiful, patriotic themed quilt.

The couple with stay in a luxurious beachblock home provided gratis by the owners. The weather over the next week promises beautiful fall days at the Jersey shore.

“It’s always sunny and 80 in Longport,” Russo said.

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Categories: Downbeach

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.