God Bless Our Troops


Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II, Memorial Fund

HAZLET — About 40 boxes were packed Thursday evening at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Hazlet by township resident Brandon Ortiz, his friends in the Parish Youth Group and volunteers with the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II Memorial Fund with supplies, care items and goodies to send to deployed troops.

Brandon, a 16-year-old rising junior at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, organized the church-wide collection for his service project as part of the high school scholarship he receives from the Memorial Fund.

“My dad was in the military, so it means more to my family and me than to someone who might not have a veteran in their family,” he said. “I think it holds a special place in their heart (the troops) to receive these gifts from home, I really do think it’s great for their morale overseas.”

The Zilinski Memorial Fund covered the expense of shipping the boxes to troops across the globe. They were sent to troops in Africa, Iraq, Germany, Poland and other undisclosed locations.

Sheila Ortiz, Brandon’s mom, also assisted in the sorting of items and packing of boxes. She said, “It’s really touching to me because my husband was in the military, as well. Brandon wanted to create his own service project, and the hope is it will be annual after he graduates high school, that another student will take it over for him.”

The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II Memorial Fund was created and founded in 2006 to honor Lt. Dennis Zilinski who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. The 23-year-old was a Middletown resident, a Christian Brothers Academy alumnus and a distinguished West Point graduate. Dennis was a member of the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division.

Since his untimely death, family and friends have united with the Memorial Fund to provide support to improve the morale and welfare of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

“It’s very special to our family that this effort is being made by a CBA student, as CBA is Dennis’ alma mater,” said Marion Zilinski, Dennis’ mother and Co Founder and Board Member of the Zilinski Memorial Fund. “Dennis was a leader and was committed to service. He was dedicated to our church and this country, and he gave his time and energy to help the community. We know Dennis would love this project as much as we do.”

Sean King, the Parish Youth Group Coordinator, added, “We had eight high school students participate from our youth group, and I think it’s fantastic. I’ve known Brandon for years. It’s great that we have our youth giving back to the community in such a profound and impactful way.”

Special thanks also to Knights of Columbus St. Benedict Council 11349 for its generous donation to the Zilinski Memorial Fund to further assist deployed troops.