For the second year in a row, The Stephen C. Ludlam American Legion Post 331 of Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey is sending US Coast Guard personnel and their families home for the holidays. This is a project that was initiated by now First Vice Commander James P. Fleischmann in 2014 in coordination with the Commander of the US Coast Guard Training Center at Cape May New Jersey, Captain G. Todd Prestidge, and his staff. As a result of last year’s success, Captain Prestidge had his staff establish a formal process for the selection of worthy permanent staff personnel. The project was run by the base Public Affairs office by Senior Warrant Officers James Edwards and Mr. Tony Bureno. Eligible personnel had to be US Coast Guard base permanent party members not over the pay grade of E-5. Winners of the Legion holiday award were selected by lottery from the ballots submitted over the base’s closed computer system. Last year, Post 331 sent three Coast Guardsmen home for the holidays. Because of exceptional support this year, Post 331 was able present awards to four categories of winners: married person with children (Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessie D’Hereaux, wife Jordan, and children Enzo and Jade); married person without children (Seaman Scott Meyer and wife Britney); single male member (Seaman Apprentice Paulo Cheng); and single female member (Seaman Apprentice Rebecca Young). A total of eight members of the Coast Guard family will be sent home.
Single-handily Legionnaire Jim Fleischmann raised the funds for this project through his personal contacts with local business and community leaders and organizations, to include members of the Philadelphia Flyers organization. It is noteworthy that no Post 331 funds were used in this enterprise. It was entirely supported through special donations. The Legion awards include round-trip airfare, transportation to and from airport, surprise flowers for the mother of the personnel, and a dinner out for the Coast Guard personnel and their immediate family. The homecoming is to be a surprise to the parents of the Coast Guard personnel.
The presentation of the awards was made at the Post’s annual reception honoring area World War II veterans on 6 December organized by Post Second Vice Commander, Tom McCullough, and hosted by the Post’s Sons of the American Legion and Auxiliary organizations. Avalon Mayor Martin L. Pagliughi, Robin Mccrossin of the Flyers, Jamie Diller of Diller and Fisher Real Estate, and Jim Fleischmann of Post 331 made the presentation of travel tickets to the Coast Guard personnel. Also in attendance for the presentation were the American Legion Department of New Jersey Commander, Michael C. Babli, Jr, and Cape May County, NJ Board of Chosen Freeholders Gerald M. Thornton, Director, and E. Marie Hayes, County Liaison to Veterans’ Organizations.
Legionnaire Fleischman is hopeful that this idea of sending service personnel home for the holidays will be picked up by other American Legion Posts throughout the country. It is a wonderful gift for the service personnel and is a tremendous public relations benefit for the sponsoring Post. Contact Jim Fleischman at the Stephen C. Ludlam American Legion Post 331, P. O. Box 232, Stone Harbor, NJ 08247 for further details on how to establish this program.