SEASIDE HEIGHTS – Around 1,500 runners, walkers and supporters converged once again for the 6th Annual Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5 Kilometer Run on the borough’s boardwalk on Ocean Terrace.
In recent years, security has been stepped up by various law enforcement agencies due to the events that transpired in 2016. The event, held in Seaside Park that year, was abruptly cancelled after a pipe bomb detonated inside a borough garbage can. The pipe bomb had been planted there by a terrorist who is now serving a life sentence.
Seaside Park Mayor Robert J. Matthies reflected on that act of terrorism in his community saying, “it is another terrible anniversary to remember but we were fortunate in the way the bomb went off that it was away from people. It could have been much worse,” Matthies said.
Ahmad Khan Rahimi, a resident of New Jersey, set off the pipe bomb during the charity run and later injured 30 people with a bomb in Manhattan. Rahimi was sentenced to multiple life terms in a federal prison. A grand jury found him guilty of eight counts related to the terrorist acts.
Semper Five returned in September 2017 and moved to Seaside Heights with added security by various county, state and municipal law enforcement agencies.
Race Director Dr. Frank Costello said 95 percent of the proceeds from the day’s event would be donated to the U.S. Marine Raider Foundation which is a national charity “benefitting Marines and Sailors who have been injured, wounded, or who have lost their lives in service to our nation, as well as their families.” He thanked News 12 New Jersey for being a sponsor to the event and promoting it.
Costello said the Foundation’s goal is to meet the unmet needs by the government and other agencies, with a focus on resiliency through its main programs which include funding to implement an executive-level transition program for Raiders stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz said, “this is the third year we’ve had it on our boardwalk. It is a great cause and a great amount of effort goes into it to make it a great race day.”
Vaz noted that the event provided for another great family crowd on the boardwalk. “Frank Costello and his committee do a great job running this.”
A dozen Brick Township students involved in the ROTC-Air Force program at the township’s two high schools came out to provide some volunteer support at the event.
“We’ll be giving out water and helping out today. We’re doing this to support the event,” Brick Memorial junior Candace Elk said.
“This our first time but the ROTC has been part of it for the past few years,” Brick Memorial High School senior Dominick Vitone said.
Red, white and blue were seen in abundance at the event which featured a strong theme of patriotism and support for the armed forces.
More than 20 runners made up Team RWB (Red, White and Blue) who represented the organization once again.
Team leader Jules Daigle said, “our organization enriches and supports those in military service. We’re involved with mental, social and physical activities and this is certainly a physical activity. We were here in 2016 when it was cancelled so in 2017, I put a call out to everyone that we wanted everyone to walk, run or crawl because it was important that we return to participate. We have 23 people here today.”
Dan Hannigan and his two young daughters of Haddon Heights were draped in stars and stripes as they prepared to cheer on his wife Jackie who was running in the event for the second year in a row.
“We vacation in Lavallette and my wife loves this race and we love coming together for this nice event,” Hannigan said.
Ortley Beach resident David Alito teaches junior ROTC-Marines at the Abraham Clark High School in Roselle. “I usually fly the American and U.S. Marine flag in front of my home but it’s not there today.”
The reason for that was that Alito brought his large and rather tall flag pole and flags to the boardwalk. They flew in the ocean breeze in support of the runners.
While a bit heavy, Alito didn’t mind at all. He held it high for nearly an hour. “If they can run it, I can hold it,” Alito said. “This is the first time I’ve brought it up here and it’s really a great day.”
Young and old took part in the Five Kilometer Run including young children, elderly veterans, a blind Marine veteran and a one-legged man who took to the course on crutches.