TOMS RIVER – Washington Street now has a new sight to behold, with a display of eight banners honoring the community’s hometown heroes.
The inaugural series honors Toms River’s fallen and missing service members with banners hung high on street poles on both sides of the street. Each display features the veteran’s name, photo, branch of service, and circumstances leading to their hometown hero designation.
Toms River spokesperson Art Gallagher said that Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill and Business Administrator Lou Amoruso entrusted him with the task in July of identifying bios and photos of local veterans who had been killed in action or who were missing in action.
The task, however, proved to be more challenging than it might have appeared at face value.
Several databases document casualties and those missing from numerous conflicts involving American soldiers. However, there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive and searchable repository providing detailed information that matches names and last known addresses.
“We made an announcement on the Township’s Facebook page asking readers who knew of vets who were killed in action or missing in action from Toms River to contact me,” shared Gallagher. “I did extensive internet searches and looked through news clips.”
Gallagher said he also consulted the Toms River Veterans Commission to see if they could help with the names of Hometown Hero candidates. He also enlisted the assistance of Direct Development, the Township’s Public Relations firm, to identify biographies and accompanying photographs.
“They came up with twelve names but only eight photos,” Gallagher said. “These represent the eight individuals on the banners we commissioned and the bios published on the Facebook page and website.”
“Mayor Hill would like for us to commission more banners before he leaves office if we can get photos and bios,” continued Gallagher. “His focus is on honoring veterans killed in action or missing in action. Anyone who wishes to submit a name for consideration should email me at email@example.com.
Going forward, the project’s future may hinge on the direction of the new administration in 2024 when Mayor-elect Daniel Rodrick assumes office. Notably, some towns create Hometown Hero banners from a pool of all local veterans.
Ocean County has an estimated 37,000 to 45,000 veterans, so the number of veterans in Toms River could be quite high. However, the United States Census Bureau stopped collecting data on veteran status in 2000, making it difficult to know for sure.
Hill served active duty in the Navy and retired from the Navy Reserves as a Rear Admiral. His determination to honor the fallen and missing is critical to his legacy.
“Our veterans, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, embody the virtue of ‘service over self,’ said Hill. “It behooves us to honor these men and women and to inspire future generations to serve their county.”
Toms River’s First Eight Hometown Heroes
For in-depth information about the first eight individuals chosen as Toms River’s Hometown Heroes, please refer to the township’s website and Facebook page. However, key highlights are summarized below.
George Howard Glawson, Jr., born on January 18, 1950, in Toms River, graduated from Toms River High School. He joined the US Army and achieved the rank of Warrant Officer.
Deployed to Vietnam on February 16, 1971, Glawson served in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and was involved with the INFANT system. Tragically, he lost his life on June 1, 1971, while piloting a UH-1H helicopter during a nighttime maintenance test flight. The aircraft exploded in mid-air, possibly due to a malfunction or artillery hit.
In his honor, an outdoor memorial at Toms River High School South was dedicated in 2001, commemorating Glawson and other graduates who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.
Born on March 20, 1945, Charles Fairchild Godfrey graduated from Toms River High School in 1963. After attending Monmouth College, Godfrey enlisted in the US Army and reached the rank of Specialist 4. He commenced his tour of duty on September 28, 1963.
At the age of 24, Godfrey, serving as an Army Intelligence Analyst, lost his life in a helicopter crash caused by hostile fire in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, on January 1, 1970. At the time, he was with the 5th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade.
His legacy lives on as one of the graduates commemorated in an outdoor Vietnam Memorial dedicated at Toms River High School South, the original high school in town.
Gary Edward Jensen, born on April 22, 1949, graduated from Rahway High School in 1967 and subsequently moved to Toms River with his family.
Before joining the US Army in March 1969, Jensen worked at Purolator Products in Rahway. Attaining the rank of Specialist 4, he served with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. Tragically, on August 25, 1970, at the age of 21, Jensen lost his life when his helicopter was shot down, with all occupants perishing in the crash.
Jensen, a machine gunner, had a commendable military record, earning accolades such as the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Army Commendation Medal for Heroism with Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, United States Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.
Jensen’s legacy endures as a brave soldier who completed over 35 missions in service to his country.
A Toms River native who graduated from Toms River South in 1965, Thomas Edward Lilley was born on January 30, 1947.
Lilley enlisted in the US Army in 1966 and achieved the rank of Specialist 4. He was assigned to Vietnam as part of the Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, tragically losing his life in action on February 19, 1968.
Lilley’s bravery was acknowledged with numerous awards, including the Bronze Star, the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, the Vietnam Military Merit Medal, the Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Purple Heart.
Tom, the oldest of eight siblings, was a caring big brother. Fondly remembered by his family, he played a significant role in the lives of his brothers and sisters. Despite the heartbreak caused by his death, Tom’s legacy endured, inspiring his siblings to service.
Charles W. Kelly, born on January 11, 1928, originally from Toms River, later made his home in Willingboro, NJ, with his family.
Having enlisted in the US Navy in 1946, Kelly achieved the rank of lieutenant. His service led him to Vietnam, where he served aboard a naval repair ship. Tragically, on January 17, 1967, Kelly lost his life in action. His final resting place is at Riverside Cemetery in Toms River.
Born October 10, 1946, Peter Gary Scavuzzo was the second of four boys from Toms River to William and Ann Scavuzzo. Affectionately nicknamed “Scooz,” he attended Toms River High School and demonstrated an early commitment to service by enlisting in the US Marine Corps before completing his high school education.
After graduation, Scavuzzo went through Boot Camp at Parris Island, SC, and served with H Company, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division. Deployed to Vietnam in August 1965, he achieved the Lance Corporal (LCPL/E3) rank and served as an infantryman.
Tragically, on March 4, 1966, during the first day of Operation Utah in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam, Scavuzzo lost his life in an attack on North Vietnamese troops.
Richard L. McClain, born June 28, 1948, relocated to Toms River with his family at age eight. He had twin brothers, Donald and Daniel, and graduated from Toms River High School in 1966.
Opting to study chemistry at Rutgers University, McClain left after a year and a half to join the workforce at Toms River Chemical Company, later known as Ciba-Geigy.
Drafted into the US Army, McClain reached the Private First Class (PFC) rank and served with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Tragically, he lost his life in action on September 30, 1968.
The most recent soldier known to have died in service for his country and recognized as a Toms River Hometown Hero was James W. Harvey II. An Army Sergeant, Harvey died at the age of 23 while serving in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, on June 20, 2011.
Born in Livingston and formerly a resident of Clark, Sergeant Harvey, the sole Hometown Hero not to have served in the Vietnam War, has been posthumously honored with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his remarkable bravery.
Having spent ten years in Clark, where he graduated from Arthur L. Johnson High School, Jimmy, as he was affectionately known, relocated to Toms River with his family four years before his death.
Harvey was a proud member of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Knox, Kentucky.