By Sean Patrick Murphy
For Nino De Pasquale, recognizing those who have served in the military is a passion.
Chairman and founder of the Medford Returning Veterans Committee, he makes it his mission to help arrange homecomings for vets and their families. The MRVC has been active for about two years.
“We are dedicated to honoring our returning heroes and their families for their courage, commitment, and service to our community and country,” De Pasquale said. “I have always been inspired by military individuals who give so much of their freedom and family life to make us all safe in our neighborhoods.”
He said the MRVC has honored more than 25 returning veterans, some have adjusted and transitioned quickly, but others have struggled, and continue to need ongoing help.
“It is crucial that these soldiers have the support of their communities and it is important for everyone, especially the young people of the townships, to understand how precious our veterans are to the well being of our democracy, and that each veteran has a personal story to tell about their military experience,” De Pasquale said.
He is a veteran of Vietnam.
“During that war, there were no welcome home celebrations which to this day continues to haunt many Vietnam veterans and their families,” De Pasquale said.
Marilyn Griffiths has been a member of the MRVC for about six months.
“I was drawn to this organization because I observed a true spirit of patriotism in honoring our homecoming or deploying military,” Griffiths said. “Their hearts were in the right place to let our military know that there is a caring America here in their hometown community.”
Her daughter in the U.S. Army Reserves was deployed for one year and her brother Bill died due to health complications from his service in Vietnam.
A member of the Warriors’ Watch Riders (WWR), Griffiths said she has been to many homecomings.
“Looking back on the time my brother came home from Vietnam, there was never any hometown ‘Welcome Home’ for him or any other veteran,” she said. “WWR believes that never again will a generation of American warriors be scorned or ignored when they return home from defending our nation.
“We learned an important lesson after Vietnam,” Griffiths added. “We learned that our soldiers desperately need the support of their families, the communities and their government.”
She is a Blue Star Mother (daughter in the U.S. Army recently home from deployment), sister of a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran (deceased), and a daughter of a U.S. Army 82nd airborne paratrooper WWII (deceased).
“I just believe that we need to be aware of our military coming home and their needs,” Griffiths said. “We need to be advocates to assist them in getting the right kind of help they need to improve the quality of their life on their return.”
She said her daughter came home from her deployment after experiencing a crisis and that it was very important to love her and support her and most importantly to encourage her to seek out all available resources as part of healing.
The MRVC has also done other work in support of veterans’ causes, including the dedication of the monument at Freedom Park that memorializes all of the Burlington County Fallen Soldiers (post Vietnam)
Additionally, the MRVC is co host of the annual WIA KIA 5K Run and Family Walk, that benefits many causes that support veterans.
Other groups that support the MRVC are the Yellow Ribbon Club, the Warriors’ Watch Riders, the Marlton Assembly of God, and other organizations.