Monica and Howard Kyle hold hand over heart during the singing of the national anthem by vocalist Carol Pacentrilli at the Longport Memorial Day service.


The day Monday started in Ventnor with the American flag at half-staff in honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. A few hours later at noon, the flag was raised to its highest position to celebrate what their sacrifice means for all Americans.

Past Commander of the Absecon Island VFW Post 215 Tom Klein presided over the service held amid the war, police and firefighters memorials at Ventnor City Hall.

“On Memorial Day we honor those who we lost in the line of service. All of them possessed the courage, pride and dedication of duty. They were ordinary people who responded to the call of duty in extraordinary ways,” he said, noting that the price of peace is “extremely high.”

“Nothing fills the void left by a fallen service member. We will always remember those who failed to make it home to their families,” he said.

Vocalist Michelle Cook sang the national anthem, while veterans, police and firefighters saluted the flag.

The great-granddaughter of Russell T. Smith, a former longtime Ventnor Police Officer and VFW Quartermaster and World War II Army veteran, for whom the Post home is named, placed a wreath at the Police memorial located on the side of the historic building.

“I’ve been coming to this service for years. My grandmother was also in the military, so this means so much to me. It’s always so impactful whenever we honor service people and I get more emotional about it every year,” the 22-year-old said.

Afterward, members of the public were invited to the Post home for refreshments and to meet newly installed Commander Anthony Ventura, a Navy veteran who served during the War in Afghanistan, and other new officers.

Klein said it is both humbling and exciting to be turning the Post over to younger veterans, and that the older members are looking forward to supporting and guiding them along the way.

An hour later in Margate, children who participate in the city’s youth sports programs showed up en masse to march in the parade wearing their team jerseys. Some parents dressed their little ones in patriotic garb and carted them along the parade route in little red wagons.

Newly installed Mayor Michael Collins gave his first formal public speech to a few hundred people gathered for the parade and service. He paid tribute to former Mayor Michael Becker, a veteran who served the municipality for 36 years, 16 of them as mayor.

“To give the ultimate sacrifice so we may live in peace is the most gracious and humble thing anyone can do,” Collins said. “No words I speak today can justly represent what today is all about…It is our obligation to honor our fallen heroes.”

Collins said that despite differences, everyone should “live each day with gratitude and respect.”

Members of Boy Scout Troop 389 of Egg Harbor Township led the Memorial Day parade in Longport as “teen patriots” distributed small American flags to spectators lining the parade route.

Two F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing signaled the start of the parade with a flyover above the smiley-faced water tower exactly at 11 a.m.

The service conducted by Longport American Legion Post Commander Larry Pacentrilli included the national anthem sung by his daughter Carol Pacentrilli. Mayor Nicholas Russo spoke about childhood memories of respect for those in the military. He recognized the veterans in the crowd who continue to honor their comrades who gave their lives “so we can enjoy the American way of life.”

Last year’s Wounded Warrior Week recipient U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Trevor Brunell, who traveled from Columbus, Georgia, to be with his Longport friends, said the borough is one of the most patriotic cities he has ever visited.

He served and was wounded in Afghanistan when his gunnery unit was caught in an ambush by a thousand ISIS fighters. A year after enduring 33 surgeries to repair his severely injured knee, he recuperated enough to run with a prosthetic, and he returned to Afghanistan for his second tour of duty. After infiltrating an ISIS village, he reinjured his damaged knee, which would require 10 more surgeries before his military career ended. He married Kara, a nurse who cared for him at Walter Reed Hospital.

Brunell said Memorial Day is for mourning and honoring the 1.3 million Americans who died in the nation’s 31 conflicts since the Revolutionary War.

He said the day is meant to honor the sacrifices and support their families, preserve history, foster unity and national identity, and inspire future generations to serve in the military.

“During my time in the Army, most of those who were lost were doing what they truly love to do,” he said. “They were very happy to do their jobs and they would want to be celebrated and remembered.

“For myself, today I mourn the losses, but I also celebrate the lives of approximately 16 of the fellow unit members I lost during my time in the Army. Some of them were like family to me. I lost my own squad leader,” he said.

The ceremony ended with the hoisting of the flag to full-staff. The crowd then proceeded to the park behind Borough Hall to enjoy hot dogs and donuts provided by the American Legion Auxiliary.


Copyright Mediawize, LLC 2023

Advertise with us


Categories: Downbeach

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

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