OCEAN COUNTY – Ocean County authorities and local law enforcement agencies honored and remembered fallen officers at the 31st Annual Ocean County Law Enforcement Memorial Day Observance.
The ceremony, held at the Ocean County Police Academy, paid special tribute to 18 officers killed in the line of duty since as far back as 1926.
A memorial on site features flags overlooking the statue of a police officer holding a child’s hand. It bears an inscription naming the Ocean County Honor Roll dedicated to officers who lost their lives in the call of duty.
In a moving scene, law enforcement officers accompanied family members in placing a rose at the statue in honor of their fallen loved ones.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer, who delivered the keynote address, said he saw the occasion as an opportunity to express appreciation for the heroism exhibited by law enforcement officers daily and to offer gratitude to their families as well.
Billhimer reminded those gathered that President John F. Kennedy designated Police Week and Peace Officer Memorial Day because he understood police officers as unique and special individuals, worthy of acknowledgement by a grateful nation.
“As everyone here certainly knows, before any police officer begins their shift, they kiss their wives or their husbands and their children goodbye,” said Billhimer. “Never knowing for certain if they will be fortunate enough to do so again at the end of their shift.
“The willingness to confront unknown danger is what makes police officers so extraordinary,” Billhimer continued. “They are selfless human beings who embrace a purpose far greater than themselves.”
The ceremony began and ended with pomp and circumstance befitting the memorial service. A motorcycle squad, as well as an Honor Guard, proceeded past dignitaries and guests to the special memorial area dedicated to the fallen officers.
The Point Pleasant Borough High School Panther Music Concert Band under the direction of M. Scott Visco provided the musical selections. Seaside Heights Police Officer Nicole Tamburro sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a heartfelt performance for the solemn occasion.
Three representatives of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners attended the remembrance service. Deputy Director Virginia “Ginny” Haines, as well as Commissioners Barbara “Bobbi” Jo Crea and Gary Quinn all expressed their appreciation for law enforcement officers. They presented a proclamation recognizing the day as Police Memorial Day and the month of May as Police Memorial Month, accepted by Stafford Township Police Chief Thomas Dellane.
“It is during Police Week that we demonstrate our appreciation for our unsung heroes who nobly wear the badge and put their lives at risk to protect us each and every day,” said Quinn. “We also join with the loved ones of 75 new special law enforcement officers as they were recognized during recent graduation ceremonies from the Ocean County Police Academy.”
“We all pray silently for the safety of these new officers as they enter our communities as peace officers,” continued Quinn. “Moreover, today we take the time to remember the 18 officers whose names grace our memorial. All of them proudly wore the uniform badge of their respective police departments and served their communities with dedication and commitment.”
Quinn also thanked and recognized Billhimer and Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy, referring to them as true role models who lead the law enforcement community in Ocean County.
The Stafford Township Police Department’s Firing Unit Detail added to the momentous service as they gave off a 21-gun salute in honor of their fellow officers.
Barnegat Township Police Chief Keith Germain read off the list of names honored at the ceremony as follows: New Jersey State Trooper First Class Joseph A. Smith, August 4, 1927; New Jersey State Trooper Leonard P. McCandless, June 28, 1931; New Jersey State Trooper John J. Ressler, May 1, 1932; Marshal Arnold Johnson, Point Pleasant Police Department. July 22, 1928; Police Officer Hartley Richter, Lakewood Police Department, April 8, 1946; New Jersey State Trooper Raymond P. Fiola, February 19, 1962; Chief Angelo J. Leonetti, Long Beach Township Police Department, March 6, 1962; Police Officer Robert T. Tobias, Manchester Township Police Department, May 17, 1975; Police Officer Richard J. Harper, Brick Township Police Department, May 4, 1978; Police Officer Larry A. Dunfee Jr., Stafford Township Police Department, April 27, 1981; Police Officer John J. Lesemann, Brick Township Police Department, August 30, 1999; Police Officer Robert Ventura, Jackson Township Police Department, March 18, 2001; Police Officer William Preslar, Lakewood Police Department, May 14, 2007; Police Officer Jason C. Marles, Ocean Gate Police Department, November 25, 2010; Police Officer Christopher A. Matlosz, Lakewood Police Department, January 14, 2011; Detective Tina E. Rambo, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, August 1, 2011; Detective 1 John Scott Stevens, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, January 21, 2015; and Cpl. Scott R. Thompson, Manchester Police Department, April 10, 2015.
Ocean County Police Academy’s current class also participated in the service, with recruits from the Ocean County Sheriff’s office and the Point Pleasant Borough Police Department placing the memorial wreath in front of the statue.
“We are overwhelmed with honor and gratitude for these wonderful folks that have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Chaplain/ Reverend James Occhipinti. “Bless the families that are here today…let them know important they are to you as honor the memory of their loved one.”