Camden County honors local service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice

- A ceremony took place Saturday in Camden, New Jersey to honor the memory of those who served the United States.

“There were so many people. You tell them you’re a Gold Star mom and they’ll say ‘What does that mean?’ I tell them it’s an organization they really wouldn’t want to belong to,” said Judi Tapper.

Tapper’s son, David, died in Afghanistan in 2003. He was a determined member of the elite SEAL Team 6 squad that rescued POW Jessica Lynch only a few months before he lost his life in combat.

“Ever since he was 12-years-old, he would say ‘Mom, I wanna be a Navy SEAL. There’s saltwater and sand in my veins,’” Tapper said. 

Nearly 15 years later, the Atco native, husband, father of four and lifelong freedom fighter is remembered, along with other local service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

At the Memorial Day event, which took place at the Camden County Veterans Cemetery, county freeholders unveiled a brand new ID card specifically for Gold Star parents.

“If you are a Gold Star parent, you lost your child in action while serving in the military,” said Camden County Freeholder Bill Moen.

The ID will honor parents, like Tapper, with various statewide benefits, including free admission to state parks and beaches.

“We intend to send a letter with the application to every Gold Star family in Camden County this week to notify them that we created the program,” Moen stated.

During Saturday’s event, two local men were honored for their service. One was Michelle Cesaro’s father, Charles DeFalco. DeFalco was a Korean War veteran from Brooklawn, New Jersey. He died in October 2017 at the age of 86.

“To him, the Korean War was the forgotten war. There were no parades, nothing. This would make him feel better that he was actually recognized for his time he was there,” Michelle Cesaro said.

 “There’s this opportunity for remembrance from their end where they know that their family member has served. They may have passed on, but the maybe through the connection of Memorial Day that they’re able to reflect on the service of their loved one,” Moen explained.

For those who have lost, the reflection happens every single day. Memorial Day weekend is a time for all to outwardly honor and remember the more than one million men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country’s freedoms.

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