Celebrating Thanksgiving with a Tribute for Troops Aboard Battleship New Jersey

By Briana Vannozzi

Hundreds of South Jersey neighbors spent their day gathered along the pier of the Battleship New Jersey, honoring the brave.

It’s the 11th Annual Thanksgiving Tribute for Troops at the historic Battleship, the highest ranking navy vessel in U.S. history.

“Its our way of saying thank you and welcoming our military personnel. A lot of these guys are away from their families, it can be a lonely day for the military,” said Jack Willard, Senior V.P., Marketing & Sales of the Battleship New Jersey.

Volunteers served a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to veterans and active military from Joint Base-Mcguire-Dix-Lakehurst, the Dover Air Force Base and several others.

Technical Sergeant Robert Hayes said, “we’re thankful that all these people took time away from their day and their family to make sure we had a thanksgiving meal. It really is an amazing thing to see.” Hayes and his 9 year-old daughter Ava were overwhelmed by the support. “I was actually like, oh my gosh what is happening to me right now because everyone was like, it was crazy out there.”

For Geny Ramirez and daughter Adi, home is on the west coast in L.A., “she wasn’t with me last year so its good to have her home with me.”

It’s often said on thanksgiving that we cook enough to feed an army. It turns out when you’re tasked with just that, it takes many volunteer groups, county organizations and an entire catering company to make it happen. “We have well over 50 battleship volunteers, I believe another 20 volunteers form our caterer,” continued Willard.

At 90 years young, World War II navy veteran Russell Collins, spent his entire career aboard the battleship. “Would I do it again, yes, and you ask any veteran that and they’d say yes.”

South Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross sits on the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. House. “I just arrived home yesterday from and after spending 6 days in the Middle East, we in America have much to be thankful for.”

When asked what he could share about his time there he said, “Most of it was classified briefings we were involved in, so it can just reassure me that the info we have is very real, and continues to be a threat. And if it wasn’t for the men and women serving in the Middle East we would have much more trouble here in America.”

“With what’s going on now as scary and unstable as the world is getting again, knowing a lot of these men and women are going to be going places far away and deal with some very serious issues and possible loss of life but they’re willing to do it for us,” added Senate President Steve Sweeney.

When asked what she is most thankful for this Thanksgiving, Ava said “I’m most thankful for my family that at least my dad got to come here with me.”

They’ll spend the day giving thanks, enjoying good food and the company of this family, albeit miles and miles from home.