It was “mission accomplished” for a group of Cranbury veterans and others as they gave The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund two checks for more than $16,000 on the flight deck of the carrier-turned-museum in Manhattan on Friday.
The local group raised the money through a summer rock and roll event in Village Park called “Rockin’ The Park” on Sept. 19.
Vietnam veteran, and Cranbury resident, Alan Stefanowicz said he came up with the idea in September 2014 out of a desire to give back to the younger generation of veterans.
Stefanowicz formed a committee with other veterans and supporters consisting of himself, Phylissanne Stehn, George Conley, Ron Witt and Charles Valente to work on the project.
“Major goals were established to ensure a successful outcome. Each related detail had to be reviewed and then checked off one by one,” Stefanowicz said. “A committee of interested individuals had to be formed, comprised of individuals who felt passionate about our military veterans.”
Stefanowicz said the group chose the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, based on the aircraft carrier museum docked in the New York Pier.
“It was important to bring attention to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and what their mission was all about,” Stefanowicz said. “We continually highlighted the fact that all the great work they do is supported solely by private funding.”
According to its website, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which was begun in 2000 and has provided nearly $200 million in support to the families of servicemen killed in action. It also provides assistance for severely wounded military personnel and veterans and is funded entirely by donations from the public.
Organization President David Winters said IFHF is specifically focused on traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions.
“A lot of progress is being made and we're very, very hopeful that we'll be able to help a lot of these men and women,” he said in September.
According to Winters, every dime that was raised from the concert will go to building medical centers across the country to help wounded military personnel receive the care they need.
This is possible because the organization's trustees underwrite 100 percent of its operating expenses, he said.
From 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sept. 19, concert goers took in six New Jersey-based bands from the lawn, while enjoying a smorgasbord of local flavors and helping to raise money for severely wounded military personnel and veterans.
When all was said and done, the group raised $14,808 for the fund through the concert itself and another $2,500 from a Church & Dwight Company grant.
Winters then invited the group and their spouses to the Intrepid on Friday to present the checks on the flight deck, and also to take a brief VIP tour of the ship.
Four of the five committee members, Stefanowicz, his wife Margaret, Stehn with her husband, Michael, Conley and his wife Marjorie, and Witt and his wife Nancy, made the trek into the city to take Winters up on the offer, hiring a limousine to take them into the city.
Unfortunately, Valente could not make the trip due to a previous business commitment.
For Witt, himself a Vietnam veteran who was assigned to the carrier several times during the later 1960s and early 1970s, the trip gave him the opportunity to explain parts of the tour to the others.
Witt said he flew a radar plane off of the carrier and described the challenges of taking off and landing while at sea.
He also told the others about the “ready room” where pilots were briefed on their missions and other areas of the ship that he called home for a time.
As the group headed back to Cranbury in the limo, Stehn popped open a bottle of champagne to toast the successful mission of helping fellow veterans.
For Stefanowicz, the trip to the Big Apple was the culmination of a year of hard, but fulfilling work and reaching the goal he initially set out to do.