On Thursday evening, July 22, Operation Yellow Ribbon organized a “rock star fashion” welcome home for 26-year-old Berlin resident Lt. Billy Beasley, who had been serving with the U.S. Navy for the past seven months in the Middle East.
It was dusk when he and his father arrived home from the airport and as they turned onto their street, they were met with a large motorcade of patriotic bikers that rode before them, announcing their arrival. Friends, family and neighbors cheered him on from the sidelines, some carrying signs that read “Welcome Home Billy!” and many others waving flags in support. Their front lawn had also been decorated with yellow ribbons, as the nonprofit is named.
Beasley grew up in Berlin. He is a graduate of Eastern Regional High School and Rutgers University, where he was a part of ROTC. In May 2017, he was commissioned and has been with the U.S. Navy as a helicopter pilot. When Beasley left in January, the pandemic was in full swing. Though he was a little overwhelmed, he was grateful to be home with his family and friends.
Following Beasley’s arrival, co-founder of Operation Yellow Ribbon Dave Silver gave a short speech thanking the veteran for his service as well as his family for their sacrifices.
“Billy, we’re so grateful for your service. We’re here to recognize you tonight. To our veterans, past, current, thank you for giving us the freedom to be here today, we’re so grateful for your service. To the loved ones, spouses, moms and dads of our veterans, we’re proud of you. You put up with them–thank you,” Silver said. “It’s not lost on us that when a hero serves, the whole family serves. We recognize you moms, dads, sisters, brothers, girlfriends, wives, kids. You serve too. You make the sacrifices while they’re gone and keep things well at home, so we’re grateful for all you do for our nation as well, thank you.”
When Silver was finished speaking, Beasley was thanked by Colonel Ted Gallagher from the Veteran’s Affairs office for Camden County and also by the motorcycle groups; the Warrior Watch Riders, the Nam Knights, South Jersey Centurions, American Gold Star Mothers, American Legion Riders, Combat Vets and Deptford Elks. A member of each group came up and presented Beasley with a challenge coin. Beasley was also gifted a Navy flag from Operation Yellow Ribbon, which they draped around him like a cape.
“I’m one of the lucky ones getting a homecoming like this,” Beasley acknowledged. “I know there are people in other wars that are just coming home now. Thank you for making me feel special.
“I ask that you think about us not just tonight, but every night. There are people still out there right now who took over for us, and that are still out on their watch. Don’t stop remembering Operation Yellow Ribbon.”
Operation Yellow Ribbon is a Marlton-based non-profit that organizes and donates care packages weekly to U.S. troops deployed in the Middle East and coordinates welcome home events for veterans in the South Jersey area.