More than 100 veterans from New Jersey and New York enjoyed thrill rides on land and sea last Saturday as the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club hosted former military and their families for a day of fun, fellowship and appreciation during Operation Shore Fun in Atlantic City. For the fourth year in a row as part of its Atlantic City Rally, the NJPCC thanked veterans for their service with powerboat excursions, a free day at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier amusement park courtesy of the venue and a complimentary cocktail reception at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino that evening.
Members of the Combat Wounded Veterans of America, Mission Transition and Disabled American Veterans participated. A brief squall rolled through the area and delayed the action, but that was the only hitch in an otherwise flawless day.
Ed Kaczmarek brought his 29-foot Scarab sportboat to provide rides for veterans. Photos courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.
Confined to a wheel chair because of a spinal cord injury, 38-year-old veteran Kenny Hernandez, his wife, Patricia, their daughter, Alex, and son, Jacob, traveled from Queens, N.Y. to attend. Hernandez laughed when his son calculated their speed in a 29-foot Scarab owned by Ed Kaczmarek at “100 million miles an hour” and described the ride as “truly awesome.” But his emotions, especially gratitude, ran far deeper.
“To have people come out and volunteer to give back to us is a very good feeling,” he said.
Among those volunteers was 32-year-old Michelle Pearson, who served as first mate for her father, Dean Mendrys. For the third year, Mendrys brought his 47-foot Fountain with triple 700-hp engines to the provide rides. While Pearson is a lifelong boater, this was her first NJPPC event and it was particularly special for her as she was able to spend Father’s Day weekend with her dad and honor her grandfather, a World War II vet who died recently.
“This is the very least our family can do for our military,” she said.
When asked about the reactions of the vets, Pearson broke into a broad smile.
Check out the slideshow above for more images from Operation Shore Fun.
“To hear their thrilled responses, and to give them a half-an-hour of thinking of nothing else but that joy is plenty of payment,” she said. “You’re going to be on the boat anyway. Why not take a few passengers who are well deserving? I’m lucky enough to walk away today and deal with my routine life. After this great day on the water, these men and women return to living and dealing with their injuries and working to move forward.”
Edil Carror is a former Army Med Evac Specialist who returned from Afghanistan in 2012 and has been dealing with various Post Traumatic Stress issues. The 40-year-old has attended more than 40 such events locally since his return.
“It helps me get out of the house, meet more vets like myself and bridge that gap,” he said. "You know a lot of us have problems just getting out of the house—stuff like this wants to make us get back out there. It give us a chance to talk with each other about what we’ve been through.”
Another Army veteran, 43-year-old Danny Campoverde served for 10 years. Before last Saturday, he had “sort of” been on a performance boat—he’d taken a ride on a “high-speed” group tourist boat at a resort.
“This ride was more exhilarating, more personal,” he said. “The one I was on before was a little bit slower. This one was really, really fast. It messed up my hair.”