Northfield Veterans Park honors all who served

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Retired U.S. Navy CPO Bob Webb along with City Councilman Steve Vain hold Webb’s brick just before it is laid into place along the walkway at the park. Webb’s was the first brick put into place. Retired U.S. Navy CPO Bob Webb along with City Councilman Steve Vain hold Webb’s brick just before it is laid into place along the walkway at the park. Webb’s was the first brick put into place.

NORTHFIELD – Saturday marked the dedication of Veterans Park on Oak Avenue. While it may have seemed like a long time for the planners who put in so much energy to see it come together, that hard work was well worth it.

The new Veterans Park opened with a flourish here Saturday when Mayor Vince Mazzeo and veteran and advocate Bob Webb pulled the tarp to unveil the black marble monument honoring all who served their country.

The Oak Avenue park dedication Nov. 17 was the culmination of much planning and hard work.

The monument, donated by Adams Perfect Funeral Home on New Road, contains the insignias of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines etched across the front, a reminder of the sacrifices made by service men and women here and gone, in Northfield and across the country.

More than 100 veterans were present, representing battles from Operation Desert Storm all the way back to Pearl Harbor. Al Matthews of Somers Point was a survivor of that World War II battle, while Assemblyman Chris Brown served more recently in Operation Desert Storm.

The flag that flies above the monument was presented to Mayor Vince Mazzeo by Northfield resident Capt. Wayne Palaia of the 177th Fighter Wing. The flag had once flown over an American base in Afghanistan.

It was Mazzeo who came up with the idea of the park to honor veterans.

The POW-MIA flag that flies just below the Stars and Stripes was presented to the Mayor by Dave Eastlack of Egg Harbor Township, commander of the American Legion Riders. Bayview Nursery provided shrubs and plants for the garden. 

Bricks purchased by benefactors were laid into a walkway in front of the monument. City Councilman Steve Vain said that when that initial area is filled, they will create a memorial walkway throughout the park.

The first brick laid into place was in honor of retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer and former Northfield police officer Bob Webb.

“Mr. Webb has worked on this with us since day one, and I don’t know if we could have completed it without his help,” Vain said.

The second brick honors Vain’s father, Marine Corps veteran Julius Vain.

Memorial bricks can be purchased for $50 each and can be applied for at the city website, www.cityofnorthfield.org or by stopping at City Hall. Schoppy’s Trophy on Linwood is customizing the bricks.

Vain said at the dedication that the portion of the park completed is only the first phase of the plan. The next phase will include a parking area, a walking trail and individual memorials for each branch of the military.

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson spoke to the crowd about the county open space funds that paid for the acquisition of the property. He said that while Northfield was looking for a lot of money to purchase the land in 2007, the park honors the veterans that have given so much that he approved the project. He is pleased with the results, he said.

The entire park was put together by volunteers with a vision to honor all the men and women who have put on a uniform in service to their nation. Many people lingered in the park Saturday, enjoying the flag snapping in the breeze and the veterans looking over the bricks, the monument and the plans of what will come later, secure in the knowledge that the park is on its way to accomplishing that vision. 


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