Atlantic County will honor the sacrifice and service of its fallen military veterans on Friday, May 28 at 2 p.m. during the 36th annual Veterans Memorial Program to be held at the Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery located in the county park on Route 50 in Estell Manor.
“Last year was the first time in 36 years that we were unable to hold this solemn tribute due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for the event’s return and the opportunity to honor the memories of those who served to protect our country and our freedom,” County Executive Dennis Levinson said in a news release. “Let us never forget.”
The program will feature the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Color Guard, the Atlantic County Corrections Officers’ Honor Guard, the Atlantic City Fire Department Sandpipers’ Pipes and Drums, and the presentation of the memorial wreath.
The keynote speaker will be Col. Diana M. Brown, Vice Commander of the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, Atlantic City. The Wing’s mission is to provide and sustain combat-ready forces supporting both federal and state missions.
Col. Brown grew up in Egg Harbor Township. After graduating from Atlantic Cape Community College with honors, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Stockton University and a Master’s degree in Military Operation Art and Science from the Air University followed by her graduation from the United States Air Force War College.
Her military career began in 1989 at Basic Military Training, Lackland Air Base, Texas and continued in the New Jersey Air National Guard where she attained the rank of Master Sergeant prior to receiving her commission.
After graduating from the Academy of Military Science in 1999, she was assigned to Headquarters New Jersey Air National Guard, Fort Dix, and rose through the ranks from Personnel Staff Officer to Commander, 177th Mission Support Flight, to Deputy Commander, 177th Mission Support Group, to Commander, 177th Mission Support Group, to attaining her current position in 2018.
In preparation for the May 28 ceremony, several local scout troops will place American flags at more than 5,500 gravesites located within the Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery on Wednesday, May 26 (rain date: Thursday, May 27).
Scouts who perform this task on at least two of three annual occasions are eligible to receive the Atlantic County Patriotism patch in recognition of their service to veterans.
The Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery was officially dedicated in May 1985 to provide a final resting place for military veterans and their spouses. The cemetery was expanded in 2014 to accommodate an additional 650 plots.
It is currently undergoing the second phase of expansion in conjunction with other park upgrades, including a columbarium for up to 900 cremation urns, drainage and irrigation systems, ADA-accessible parking, a new restroom facility, the bifurcation of Purple Heart Drive and a paved pedestrian/bicycle path.
As a reminder to those planning to attend the May 28 event, the county strongly encourages visitors to wear masks, sit or stand with those they come with, and leave appropriate space between themselves and other guests.