The New Jersey Wing of the Civil Air Patrol at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is accustomed to conducting search missions.
But the one it's performing now goes well beyond the scope of its usual duties.
The Civil Air Patrol is looking for CAP members who served during World War II in order to provide them the recognition they deserve.
Last year, the founding members of the nonprofit U.S. Air Force auxiliary who served during World War II were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
They were honored by Congress for their efforts in protecting the homeland against deadly German U-boat attacks, and for carrying out other vital wartime domestic missions.
In New Jersey, the birthplace of the Civil Air Patrol, "we are searching far and wide for our World War II volunteers or family members of those members so we can honor them properly - with a replica of the Gold Medal presented on Capitol Hill in December," said Col. Steven M. Tracy, New Jersey Wing commander. "We're planning a special ceremony in their honor."
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor Congress can bestow upon civilians.
"This is a call to our New Jersey neighbors," Tracy said. "If you are, or know, a World War II CAP volunteer, please reach out to us so we can recognize you."
A week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Civil Air Patrol established its first coastal patrol base at Bader Field in Atlantic City. The historic airport, also known as Atlantic City Municipal Airport, was closed in 2006.
Some 200,000 men, women, and teenagers - including stars of the silver screen, successful businessmen, future Tuskegee Airmen, and aspiring pilots - participated in CAP during the war years, largely without recognition or reward.
CAP volunteers supported the war effort by patrolling the coasts, escorting thousands of convoys, and providing many other critical services.
CAP has 60,000 members nationwide and operates a fleet of 550 aircraft. It performs about 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search-and-rescue missions, and has been credited with saving an average of 70 lives annually.
Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster-relief, and drug-interdiction missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies.
- Edward Colimore