celebrating a sense of place

The drop off collection boxes will be located at the following businesses: (Please do not drop off items until Veteran’s Day). Your support is greatly appreciated.

Peapack-Gladstone Bank, 26 Dumont Road, Far Hills, NJ 07931 (Contact: Michael Caruso at 908.781.2708).

Valley Pharmacy, 75 Washington Valley Road, Bedminster, NJ 07921 (Contact: Janet Cammarata at 908.658.4900).

Investor’s  Bank, 315 Route #202/206, Pluckemin, NJ, 07978 (Contact: Antonella Celli, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager at 908.719.6750).

Coldwell Banker Realty, 1 S. Finley Avenue, Basking Ridge, NJ, 07920 (Contact: Theresa Filippone at 908.766.8354, or 908.766.0808).

Weichert Realtors, 22 Henry Street, Basking Ridge, NJ, 07920 (Contact: Carol Conway at 908.334.1986).

"In Country"

Winter Clothing Drive Inspired By Late Vietnam Veteran 

By C.G. Wolfe/© The Black River Journal

Photos Courtesy of  Stacia McDonough

John E. McDonough, the son of a World War II veteran, was born on the fourth of July, in Elmira, New York. Described as a “gentle, fun-loving athlete and accomplished musician,” John enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1969,  just a few months after his 18th birthday. After basic training, he was assigned to the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron (21st TASS). The 21st TASS was a forward air control unit whose primary mission was to provide visual reconnaissance in support of tactical offensive operations. Utilizing small prop planes that flew dangerously low and slow, the unit was an essential element in directing air strikes and detecting enemy forces. The 21st TASS played a vital role in numerous major engagements and small actions. During the course of the Vietnam War, the unit earned five Presidential Unit Citations, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with “V” device for valor, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm. John E. McDonough, a sergeant, served with the 21st TASS from 1971-73 and was deployed in three designated “hot zones:” Saigon, Nha Trang, and Anloc.

John returned home in 1973, and, like many returning Vietnam veterans, he was greeted by the slurs and insults of protestors and tormented by the memories of the things he had seen. On November 30, 2005, after more than three decades and thousands of miles from the battlefield, this highly decorated veteran was killed during his final battle of the Vietnam War when, at the age of 54, he died in his home in Bedminster, New Jersey, from complications caused by overexposure to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange.

On Veteran’s Day, 2008, John McDonough was inducted into The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial’s unique, “In Memory” program. This honor is reserved for a select group of New Jerseyeans who are not represented on the memorial of those killed or missing in action, but, who nonetheless, sacrificed their lives for their country, dying early in life after suffering debilitating physical and emotional illnesses as a direct result of their time spent “In Country.”

Inspired by her love for her late husband and the sacrifice of all US veterans, John McDonough’s widow, Stacia McDonough began the “They Kept Us Safe, Let's Keep Them Warm,” new winter clothing drive to benefit the formerly homeless and disabled veterans currently housed at the “Hope for Veterans” facility on the VA campus in Lyons, New Jersey. The annual collection, now in its 6th year, officially “Dedicated in Memory of John E. McDonough.”

According to national statistics, around 9% of the homeless population in the US are veterans. The majority are men, but at least 4% are women. There are currently 7 ex-service women (sizes L-14) residing at the facilities in Lyons.

“As Americans, we must keep our brave veterans in the forefront. For their service, bravery, and sacrifice these noble warriors should be revered, and never forgotten,” says Mrs. McDonough.

The drive will run from Veteran's Day through December 21. Mrs. McDonough, along with several dedicated volunteers will personally hand-deliver the gift-wrapped items to each veteran on December 22nd.

“I am looking forward to a banner year, hoping I can spread a little bit of Christmas cheer to our amazing heroes,” said Mrs. McDonough. “It is a tremendous privilege for me to be able to conduct this annual campaign, and an honor to spend quality time with our veterans. It’s beyond humbling just to be in their presence.”

Items being collected include brand new  winter coats, hats, scarves, socks, slippers, ear muffs, robes, pajamas, undershirts (All men’s sizes: L-5XL), thermal underwear, sweaters, blankets, toiletries (shampoo, bar soap, razors, deodorant, sunblock, lip balm, etc.). New kitchenware such as toaster ovens, crock pots, George Forman grills, toasters, coffee makers, Tupperware etc. Bed-in-a Bag is also a much-needed item. In addition, gift cards from Visa, American Express, grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Target are a much sought after item by the veterans.

The Stirling Elks Lodge, 1138 Valley Road, Stirling, NJ, 07980 (Contact: Kelly Mazzochi 908.672.2079) *Non-perishable food is also being collected at this location.

Robbiani’s Clock and Doll Shop, 14 School Road West, Marlboro, NJ, 07746 (Contact: Michael and Kathleen Robbiani at 732.462.3589).

Salon Seraphim, 55 Willow Lane, 184 Route #9 North, Englishtown, NJ, 07726 (Contact: Jennifer Oakley or Michelle Whinni at 732.972.5177).

The Waiting Room Restaurant 66 East Cherry Street, Rahway, NJ, 07065 (Contact: Donna Wenson at 732.382.0900).

Any individuals, businesses, or organizations interested in participating in the “They Kept Us Safe, Let's Keep Them Warm” drive, can contact Mrs. Stacia McDonough via e-mail at: staciamcdonough@hotmail.com, or Mrs. Jena Rae at jenakrae@gmail.com

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