It was a beautiful spring day at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale on Thursday. In addition to the clear blue skies and the rich green of the course there was also lots of awe inspiring red white and blue to be seen as well.
For the third year in a row, the club held its annual Honor Day celebration where service members from the Navy and Marines are given the opportunity to come play a round of golf and take part in a moving banquet at night as well.
John Beurskens, who serves as the assistant general manager and membership director for the club said the day was first formulated four years ago as special activity to coincide with Fleet Week in New York. Since that time he said the day has become an important tradition. "The members feel great about it," he said. "They've donated a lot of money to help the Warriors Foundation which helps all the service branches."
Last year alone the members raised more than $80 thousand for Hope for the Warriors, and Beurskens said he fully expected them to exceed that number again. "It's a day that they get to thank all these people that do so many things for us for freedom," he said.
Ella Claney who works for the organization said the money raised will help with variety of programs they run to help wounded service members when they return home. The programs range from helping to pay the bills of families of the soldiers to helping to furnish the home of a quadruple amputee on Staten Island. They also offer career counseling and scholarships as well.
More information on the organization can be found by going to their website.
Howell Mayor Robert Walsh said it was an honor for him and the other members to be able to provide this opportunity for their guests. "It's just a privilege. It's a great day," he said. "We just look so forward to this day to be able to say thank you and have an enjoyable day with them."
Walsh said one of his favorite parts of the day is the fact that everyone gets a laugh as the members are thanking their honored guests for all they do, and the guests are always thankful for the chance to take part in the day. "We admire what they do, we're thankful that they're willing to represent our country and the democracy we get to enjoy on a daily basis."
Joining Walsh on the course was Sgt. Wade Haynes, a Mississippi native stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Haynes said it means a lot to the Marines to be able to leave their daily routine for this day. "What this does for us is it gives us the confidence that we are being supported," he said.
Having served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, Haynes said the support is very important when they come home. "We go out there and we put our life on the line. It makes us proud to see that we are really (well) received."
With many of the men and women who make the trip having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beurskens said Honor Day is a chance to be recognized for all they do while also having an experience they will likely not forget for a long time. "The guys and girls that come here, their socks are always blown off," he said.
It all starts with 50 Marines and sailors who are matched up with club members for a round of golf that also includes contests, including longest drive, along the course. Then at night they are joined by 150 more of their brothers and sisters for the dinner.
In case that was not enough, the club also brought a group of students from Immaculate Conception School in Spotswood. The students not only got the chance to talk to some of the Marines, but representatives from the Monmouth County Sheriff's Department and a local fire company also brought some of their equipment to make it an even more educational day.
Whether it was a member of the county's K-9 division, or seeing the firefighters in their full equipment or the massive troop carrier they got to climb into, the students got the chance to see and experience things they may not have been able to on a daily basis.
As the Memorial Day weekend approached those in attendance got the chance to remember those had been lost in the service to their country while honoring those who will likely be back on the front lines in the not too distant future. For at least one day everyone got the chance to enjoy some nice weather and a break from their daily routine for a very worthy cause.