By Lauren Wanko
Under sunny skies this morning, veterans and Americans gathered to honor those who served our country, remember those who sacrificed their lives for their fellow Americans and to celebrate the partial reopening of the American Legion Post 351 — after Sandy completely devastated the building.
“Many people thought that we would never be back, but we will be back,” said Commander William.
Much of the building is still in a state of disrepair. Paying It Forward Foundation, a grassroots non-profit, took on the project with the help of hundreds of volunteers from different organizations to slowly transform this storm-ravaged building for those who fought so hard for our country.
“It’s the least we can do. There are so many people not back home. We have to take care of our veterans. They fight for our country they fight for our freedom and now they need something back,” said Gina.
The American Legion Post 351 has been a staple of the Seaside Heights community since the 1950s, a home of sorts to these veterans — one they’re happy to return to today.
“This was like a godsend. The American Spirit is alive is well in Seaside Heights. We are rising up like the Phoenix,” said Commander.
Paying It Forward Foundation hopes to have the rest of the building completed by Memorial Day.
“I just can’t believe this turnout. I’m really humbled,” said one vet. “It shows we’re a vital part of this community.”
Political leaders joined together to celebrate the day.
“What we have in this country is worth fighting for and the men and women of this nation have never ever hesitated to go when called to defend the principals we believe in,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
“This is truly an emotional day. We didn’t think we would have today and only because of again the human spirit of continuing to give to Seaside Heights,” said Mayor Bill Akers.
Service members joined the effort to rebuild this American Legion Post.
“The military is like a family. We understand each other better then anyone else so it’s nice to have a place for them to go and be together,” said.
And on this day, these service members — both young and old — are together, serving as a reminder of the sacrifices they’ve made for all Americans.