A combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, who created a non-profit to help others, gets top honors this afternoon in Sea Girt.


Sixty eight-year-old Michael Ricci of Wall Township has been named the 21st New Jersey Hero by Governor Christie's wife, First Lady Mary Pat Christie. It was three years ago that he started Operation Beachhead, which gives veterans, disabled veterans and disabled children and adults a chance to enjoy outdoor sports and recreational activities without limitation.

There are trained professionals on hand to give them an extra hand in case they need anything. The organization has been picking up steam during the last few years and Ricci couldn't be happier with both the group and this honor.

This announcement follows the past weekend festivities when Operation Beachhead hosted the Oscar Mike Team. It was a weekend full of adaptive watersports and other activities for disabled veterans and other challenged citizens of the shore area.

Ricci, who was left disabled after combat operations during the war, says they are always seeking donations."

"No one gets paid here. It's all volunteer work," he said. "While it's wonderful they are honoring me with this award, I am no hero. I am the vessel. The real heroes are the ones who give their time to work with us on this."

Today's ceremony takes place at the National Guard Training Center, 5 Camp Drive, Sea Girt, NJ 08750.

New Jersey Heroes is an initiative of Mrs. Christie's that showcases the positive and unique ways people and organizations are impacting New Jersey and their communities.

The group can be reached on their website and their Facebook page.