For the second year in a row, Stephen C. Ludlam American Legion Post 331 of Avalon and Stone Harbor, N.J., sent U.S. Coast Guard personnel and their families home for the holidays. This is a project that was initiated by now-1st Vice Commander James P. Fleischmann in 2014 in coordination with the Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center at Cape May, N.J., Capt. G. Todd Prestidge, and his staff. As a result of last year’s success, 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 Tony Bureno. Eligible personnel had to be 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 to 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.
Singlehandedly, Legionnaire Jim Fleischmann raised the funds for this project through his personal contacts with local business and community leaders and organizations,including 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 mothers of the personnel, and a dinner out for the Coast Guard personnel and their immediate families. The homecoming was 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 2nd Vice Commander Tom McCullough and hosted by the Sons of the American Legion and Auxiliary organizations. Department of New Jersey Commander Michael C. Babli Jr, Post 331 Commander Harry Clayton, Post 331 1st Vice Commander Jim Fleischmann, and Robin Mccrossin of the Flyers made the presentation of travel tickets to the Coast Guard personnel. Also in attendance for the presentation were Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders Director Gerald M. Thornton and E. Marie Hayes, County Liaison to Veterans’ Organizations.
Fleischman is hopeful that this idea of sending service personnel home for the holidays will be picked up by other 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 him at Stephen C. Ludlam American Legion Post 331, P. O. Box 232, Stone Harbor, NJ 08247, for further details on how to establish this program.