PHOTO: Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II
Scholarship Memorial Dinner Dance on May 16 Will Fund Youth Scholarships, Honor Veterans & Preserve Loving Memories Of Fallen Hero
MIDDLETOWN, NJ - For the members of Middletown Reformed Church, it still seems like yesterday when the shocking news started to hit the tight-knit community, shaking it to the core. Though ten years has passed, the impact of Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski’s death has not diminished. A beloved member of the congregation and youth group at the church, the intense pain of Dennis’ passing in 2005 is still so fresh to many, it seems.
“It’s like yesterday. We cry every time we do something in his honor,” said Beverly Bova Scarano, a close personal friend to the Zilinski family and active member of the church. While the years have passed along with the 125th anniversary of the church a few years back, the example of Dennis’ life upon the faith community he loved so much has not faded and has instead been a source of inspiration, particularly to the youth of the church.
Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II was a native of Middletown, N.J. and graduated from Christian Brothers Academy, where he was a member of the swim team. He was nominated to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 2004. He completed Airborne School while a student at West Point. After graduation from Ranger School, he was assigned to the 1/187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) ’Rakkasan.’ He deployed with the 101st Airborne Division onSeptember 17, 2005. On November 19, 2005, only two months into his deployment, Lieutenant Zilinski II was killed in Iraq as a result of a roadside bombing near Bayji, 155 miles north of Baghdad.
While the news of his death was devastating to his family, friends, and the community-at-large, those who loved and cared for him established the Lieutenant Dennis Zilinski Youth Group Memorial Scholarship Fund in 2006 to honor his memory and to pay tribute to the way in which his lived his life, a life that embodied the values of service to God and Church, service to country, service to his family and service to his community. The scholarship fund was established through the leadership and dedication of Jo-Ann LoSapio and her son Christopher, who noted the purpose is to continue to honor Dennis while supporting the youth of the church through his memory and by reminding them of the life Dennis led by putting God first and serving others. Every year, the scholarship committee hosts fundraising events to support scholarships to youth group members who are entering college, furthering their higher education or entering the military. Each scholarship recipient has demonstrated a commitment to serving others.
Bova-Scarano noted that the life Dennis lived has left an indelible and lasting legacy and has continued to serve as an example. Past scholarship recipients have honored Dennis’ memory by remaining active in the church and community-at-large, and several have followed directly in his footsteps by entering the military: Lloyd Petrone is serving inthe United States Marine Corps and is currently in his second year in Japan. Lloyd’s brother, Joseph, just completed basic training and is stationed in Mississippi for specialized training in the United States Air Force. Kaitlyn Powell is in the United States Air Force and is returning for a second year in Korea.