During the Cold War, Ken Braswell was a U.S. Army platoon leader in South Korea. He was in charge of a Nike surface-to-air missiles site when he was 23 years old. Now at age 58, the Stafford Township resident is helping restore a similar site at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook in Gateway National Recreation Area, where the nuclear and conventional weapons were manned from 1954 to 1974.

He’s part of a group of veterans that formed the nonprofit Fort Hancock NY 56 Volunteers Association, which is taking the lead in restoring and interpreting the site, in cooperation with the National Park Service. 

The group is seeking other Nike weapons system veterans, both active military and National Guard, to help with the restoration and to give tours, Braswell said.

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“There were 300 of these in the nation around larger cities,” Braswell said of the defensive weapons systems, designed to protect large population centers in the event of Soviet attack. Braswell, who retired from the military after 12 years active duty and 14 years in the Army Reserve, owns Braswell Trophies and Engraving in Stafford Township. 

People can tour the site Sunday for Cold War Day, and see a reinstalled radar system, decommissioned missiles, the vans that held the equipment to launch the missiles and the underground building where the missiles were kept. Braswell’s group gives more limited tours of just the radar site almost every weekend, he said.

If you go

Cold War Day is being held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook at Gateway National Recreation Area in Middletown, Monmouth County. Tours are noon to 4 p.m. Call the Sandy Hook Visitors Center at 732-872-5900.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House takes the cake 

Atlantic City’s Ruth’s Chris Steak House executive chef William Wesner, of Ventnor, and head server Jennifer Napolitano, of Galloway Township, recently won the $1,000 first-place prize at the Confectioner’s Chocolate Dessert Contest for their chocolate mousse cheesecake on an Oreo cookie crust. The competition was held during the Philadelphia National Candy Gift and Gourmet Show earlier this week at the Atlantic City Convention Center. 

Beach Patrol veteran retires in Ocean City

Ocean City Beach Patrol Lieutenant Joe Schmitt, founder of the Schmitt Relays and the city’s Master’s Swim, was honored at a City Council meeting last week. Schmitt, who won three gold medals in his age group at this year’s National Lifeguard Competition, recently retired following a 55-year career. 

He and his wife, Beverly, live in Ocean City and Philadelphia.

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