Proceeds from the Nov. 11 event will benefit the Legion’s efforts to aid veteran and youth organizations within the area
Following the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Mullica Hill resident Jack Sommer enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 17 years old in 1977. Through his experiences and travels worldwide during his six-year term of service, the military taught him important life lessons and gave him the opportunity for success, a possibility he hopes to instill in fellow community veterans and youth through the Robert W. Mills American Legion Post 452.
Funding for the Legion, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization, relies on active membership, participation, volunteerism and financial support. Last year, the first annual Veterans Day 5K Run/Walk was its biggest fundraiser, enabling members to renovate the hall’s core infrastructure needs. This year’s event, scheduled for Nov. 11, will raise funds for the Legion to focus its efforts on helping veteran and youth organizations in the area. Beginning and ending at the American Post Legion 452, located at 141 N. Main St., Mullica Hill, the event is open to runners, walkers and joggers of all ages. This year, Navy veteran and Mullica Hill resident Timothy Birkhead will be the guest of honor.
According to Sommer, proceeds from this year’s event will be allocated to organizations such as Homes for Our Troops, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Gloucester County Veterans Memorial Cemetery, VetDogs and other veteran organizations making a difference in the area. As well, the Legion sponsors high school students from Harrison and Mantua townships to attend the American Legion Boys State, a participatory program for students to become part of the operation of local, county and state government. Additionally, funds will be used to increase the value of college scholarship donations made annually to two Clearview Regional High School seniors.
“Fundraising is essential to the post as we work hard to support the community and assist every veteran and his or her family members who walk through our doors,” Sommer said.
Prior to joining the Legion, where he holds the position of post adjutant, Sommer spent his time serving the U.S. Navy in the Advanced Electronics Program for two years, and finished his enlistment as a petty officer second class aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. Sommer worked in the Carrier Intelligence Center where he was responsible for maintaining intelligence and mission planning systems, and during his four years at sea, he made deployments to the North Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean where he was able to visit countries across the globe.
During his time on the USS Nimitz, the ship was dispatched in 1979 to strengthen the U.S. Naval presence in the Indian Ocean where tensions were heightened over Iran’s taking of 52 American hostages, Sommer said. During the deployment, which saw the launch of “Operation Evening Light” in an attempt to rescue the hostages, the ship operated 144 continuous days at sea. According to Sommer, President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, with members of Congress, military leaders and thousands of families and friends, greeted the ship’s crew upon return in May 1980.
“Nimitz’s homecoming was, at the time, the largest given to any carrier battle group returning to the United States since the end of World War II,” Sommer said.
Additionally, Sommer was aboard the Nimitz on the night of May 25, 1981, when an EA-6B Prowler crash-landed on the flight deck, killing 14 crewmen and injuring 45 others.
“The Navy provided me with a unique opportunity to develop skills and travel the world,” Sommer said. “The experience I obtained working on computer systems in the Carrier Intelligence Center gave me my start in the defense industry. More than 30 years into my profession, I have the Navy to thank for jump starting my career and introducing me to some shipmates for life.”
Sommer said the Legion, named after Mullica Hill resident Robert W. Mills who was killed in action in 1944, is committed to support those who have served and are currently serving, as well as providing a community for the next generation of veterans.
“We are committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans,” Sommer said.
To support the Legion and register for the Veteran’s Day 5K Run/Walk, which will begin at 8 a.m., visit www.runsignup.com/Race/NJ/MullicaHill/VeteransDay5KRun1MileWalkAmericanLegion452. The event will conclude with an awards ceremony, food provided by Blueplate and a beverage.
To learn more about the Robert W. Mills American Legion Post 452, visit the “American Legion Post 452, Mullica Hill” Facebook page.