It’s difficult to call former Marine and Pearl Harbor survivor Stephen H. Acocella a “Hero of the Day,” since his heroism took place 73 years ago in Pearl Harbor.

He was honored in a ceremony yesterday marking the 73rd anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy.”

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew told him: “You represent the best of America, the true mettle of what good Americans are made of. You really are a hero to the community.”

Acocella grew up poor in Montclair, and joined the Marines in 1940, when he was eventually sent to Pearl Harbor.

On that day, since the units weren’t prepared or had little weaponry with which to fight back, out of frustration, he threw rocks at the incoming planes.

The next day, his was the task of carrying out some of the bodies that had washed ashore.
He stayed on in the Pacific and fought for another 5 years – having been discharged in 1945, and moved to Vineland.

While he rarely shared stories of his service with any of his family, recently, according to his daughter, Margaret Cornwell, he has been opening up.

She said:

“For us growing up, it was still fresh in his mind,” she said. “He would wake up with nightmares — the day is still vivid in his mind.”
“He’s been more open to talking about it lately,” Cornwell said. “I’m very proud of him. This means a lot to him — it’s really beautiful.”

As we are, 73 years later.

And even though his service took place 7 decades ago, we accord former Marine Stephen H. Acocella our “Ray’s Hero of the Day!”