An idea became a vision; a vision became a mission; and a mission brought Operation Beachhead to life.
This life continues to grow through the support of people who wish to show their appreciation and thanks to our veterans.

Operation Beachhead

An idea became a vision; a vision became a mission;
and a mission brought Operation Beachhead to life.

Steve Stillman ~ Waterman

Steve has been a passionate surfer for his entire life, having been one of the youngest members of Kiernan Surfing Assoc. he learned to stand up on rafts, Styrofoam and belly boards. Post (Business College) years lead to corporate transfers but the “surf4ever” spirit, competition & travel continued and probably will forever! Having numerous late uncles as VETS & fueled by his late step father also a VET,  Steve heard the compassionate call to give back and believes in the therapeutic magic of the ocean. 

Now in his 5th year with Operation Beachhead he still feels nothing is as rewarding as the smiles on the faces of all the participants when riding a wave.  Also an avid guitarist,  Steve continues to support the non-profit "Guitars for VETS" organization where he puts “music in the hands of our heroes”. He believes in the therapeutic nature of music as well.  
Steve is a devoted son, brother, and father of a 17-year old son who body boards and with whom Steve skis and snowboards with during the winter.

If there’s a promise of a wave you’ll find Steve along with the other devoted members of the Operation Beachhead water crew chasing down another day in the surf!

Hap Auch III

Hap is the founder of Tridents, an organization dedicated to finding every-day heroes, every day.   He is a graduate of Manasquan High School and La Salle University.  Hap completed his 5 jumps at the U.S. Army Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA and Air Assault School at Ft. Campbell, KY.  He lives in Wall Township with his wife Natalie and their 4 children.  He is active in coaching lacrosse, soccer and hockey, and is naturally proud of his four surfing kids.   Hap is an enterprise software sales executive, representing Microsoft’s solutions throughout the eastern United States.

Beth Kelley ~ Adaptive Surfer

I became involved with Operation Beachhead after reading about the organization in The Coast Star.  Being a full time wheelchair user I wasn't accustomed to having fun "beach days".  I read about the program and contacted founder Michael Ricci who welcomed me to join in the activities.  I had never been in the ocean before and when I met Shayne and the rest of our amazing surf instructors they had me out in the ocean surfing like anyone else!  I was immediately hooked.  I was never much of a water person and I never expected to fall in love with surfing and the ocean. All thanks to Operation Beachhead!

Lorrie Presby ~ Treasurer

Lorrie is a lifelong New Jersey resident. She was introduced to Operation Beachhead through the many events held in both the summer/winter, and immediately knew that she wanted to get involved as a way to honor her father who served in the Navy, and her father-in- law who served in the Army during WWII. 

She is the proud mother of five children. Lorrie's hope is to add value  to Operation Beachhead and help this exceptional organization achieve its  goals.

Matthew Mattessich ~ Operation Beachhead Member ~ Adaptive Surfer

Matthew Mattessich is 14 yrs. old and has autism. He started his journey with Operation Beachhead a few years ago and it has been the most amazing experience for him.


Matthew has always loved the water but at first he was a little apprehensive about getting on a surfboard. Boy, did that change!


Surfing with Operation Beachhead has become his absolute favorite activity and brings the biggest smile to his face. We literally can’t keep him out of the water. Matthew has very limited language but will ask everyday for surfing and the beach now!! The volunteers for Operation Beachhead and all of the people involved have made Matthew a part of their family. We cannot thank them enough for all their hard work and for giving Matthew this opportunity. Surfing with the Operation Beachhead family has brought Matthew so much happiness. It is priceless. 


Submitted by Matt & Lisa Mattessich, Matthew’s parents

Donnie Loughran ~ Operation Beachhead Member, Adaptive Surfer

A lifelong resident of the Jersey Shore, I grew up swimming, fishing, and sailing on the local waterways. I am a self-declared beach bum. So when complication from Multiple Sclerosis took away my ability to get on the beach, I was devastated. In the summer of 2011, a therapists suggest I try adaptive surfing. So I participated in an event in Wild Wood, NJ. I was hooked. Back on the beach, and in my beloved ocean.

The following summer a friend told me to attend an Operation Beachhead event. I was hesitant at first, since I wasn't a veteran. Michael Ricci and the men welcomed me with open arms. An adaptive surfer was born. Operation Beachhead and adaptive surfing has given my life new direction. Which has expanded to adaptive skiing. As a support group leader, and health coach, I encourage other challenged individuals to get active. Open your life back up, and DREAM BIG!

Be Inspired Today..Adaptive Surfing

Tom Conte ~ Operation Beachhead Member ~ Photograper

Tom is active in Operation Beachhead as a photographer. He has taken many of the magnificent summer-time photos on the Operation Beachhead website. He has an eye to capture just the right moment so the viewer can experience the fun on the beach. Operation Beachhead is lucky that Tom has found us and is so willing to give of his time.


Mr. Conte is active with Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI). He currently resides in the Shark River Hills with his wife the former Dianne Bruno.


Professionally, Tom is a Transportation Security Specialist – Explosives (TSS-E) assigned as an Explosives Subject Matter Expert to the DHS Office of Law Enforcement’s, Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), Newark Field Office. While at Newark Field Office, he was recognized by the Federal Executive Board (Newark) as enforcement/Security/Investigative Employee of the year, and recognized with TSA’s

Honorary Incentive Award, Partnership Category and in 2012 was recognized nationally as TSS-E of the year.


Tom was career Navy where he enlisted 1983. In October 1985, he was selected for, attended, and successfully completed Navy Diver and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training. Following EOD School he was assigned to Subic Bay, RP Philippines where he deployed twice to the Middle East and took part in several operations.


In 2000 Mr. Conte was deployed with USS BONHOMME RICHARD Amphibious Readiness Group and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit earning the Fleet Marine Force Ribbon. He was instrumental in drawing up and implementing a plan for the first deployment of the MK 4/7 Marine Mammal System (MMS) (Atlantic Bottle Nose Dolphins) to Norway for a NATO Exercise. Additionally, he deployed some of the first EOD assets in theater in support of combat operations in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks. He conducted the operational redesign of MMS in support of Homeland Defense increasing security for high-value assets that were suspected of being targeted by terrorist in the US.


In January 2002, he was the senior Navy EOD Planner for multiple events; including the first anniversary of September 11th, memorial events, the UN General Assembly, NYC Fleet Week 2002, 2003, and 2004, as well as other numerous large venue events with high value targets.


Mr. Conte holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of the State of New York.

He is a graduate of Navy Senior Enlisted Academy (Advanced Managerial, Public Affairs, National Affairs, and Leadership Training. He retired from the US Navy in 2004.

Shayne Boyle ~ Operation Beachhead Member ~ Waterman

Shayne was introduced to the water's of Sea Girt by surfing parents. Spending summer days riding whatever wave craft was in vogue: mats, Styrofoam boards, fishes, chips and hogs! If it was windy, rigging up the Hobie catamaran and surfing it in the waves was what his family did. Today Shayne is an accomplished professional surfer, having won numerous surfing competitions, and has excelled in surfing instruction for over 15 years. Shayne is also an accomplished artist.


You are encouraged to learn more about Shayne and his art works at

Also read about Shayne by clicking on the In the News tab.

Bob Raffetto ~ Operation Beachhead Member ~ Waterman

Retired US Navy Commander, Bob Raffetto served as a naval dental officer for over twenty five years of continuous active duty and has traveled extensively around the world.  A graduate of the New Jersey Dental School, he is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. His assignments with our Navy have taken him to Antarctica, New Zealand, Hawaii, Tonga, Japan, Kenya, Singapore, China, Thailand, Spain, Turkey, Greece and Sardinia. Bob's first operational assignment was as dental officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. He deployed with the First Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm.  He served as Dental Department Head supporting Operating Deep Freeze and aboard the submarine tender USS Emory S Land supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Bob now enjoys the satisfaction of supporting Operation Beach Head.  He has been stoked on water sports ever since the early sixties and today enjoys kitesurfing, surfing, windsurfing, swimming and longboard paddling.

 I joined Operation Beach Head primarily because I want to share my thrill of playing in the ocean with others who may otherwise not have the opportunity to enjoy the ocean's splendor. 

Jane Potoczniak ~ Volunteer Coordinator

Jane retired from the Point Pleasant Beach School District, where she worked as the District Technology Coordinator. Prior to that she worked as a technology instructor for the district.  She has a Masters degree in Educational Technology from NJCU (New Jersey City University). She is the mother of three adult children and is devoted to her family.


She divides her time as a member of the Alpha Zeta chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, (an International honorary organization of women educators dedicated to educational excellence, altruism and world understanding), as a volunteer with the VNACJ (Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey), and also serves as a  volunteer with Operation Beachhead. In her free time she practices yoga and spends time with her family and friends.


A lover of the beach and ocean, it gives her great pleasure to see the joy the Operation Beachhead activities brings to the participants. “A day spent on the beach or at the ice rink with Operation Beachhead is very inspiring. I enjoy the dedication everyone, volunteers and participants, brings with them to make the day meaningful, adventurous, and fun. The courage of the participants is nothing short of amazing - trying something new and trusting in the watermen, lifeguards,  or ice rink volunteers for their safety and enjoyment. When I look at the photos at the end of an Operation Beachhead event day, all I see are smiles on everyone’s faces.”

Devon Herbermann ~ Photography & Catcher

Devon graduated with a BS degree in Exercise Science from Western Maryland College (now William McDaniel College) in Westminster, Maryland. She has worked in corporate fitness and as an NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certified personal trainer. After returning to school, she now has a nursing degree.


Devon grew up at the Jersey Shore and spent every summer on the beach. She has competed in several triathlons and loves to try any new activity.  While working on an army base, near Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, Devon witnessed the hardships some of the returning soldiers were enduring. Upon returning to New Jersey and presented with the opportunity to volunteer with Operation Beachhead and help disabled vets, she decided to use her love of the water and photography to offer her help. 

Darian Boyle ~ Operation Beachhead Member

Darian Boyle is a World Champion athlete and an accomplished TV personality. She is a pioneer in woman’s freeskiing with numerous awards, medals and first descents to her name. In the water, Darian is a Yoloboard Elite Team rider for Stand Up Paddling and surfing. On camera, she is a frequent presence on several media channels as a Sports Reporter, TV host and radio broadcaster. Darian is always looking for ways to explore and express her passion for life whether it is finding a new surf break, conquering a remote mountain-top or giving a helping hand with Operation Beach head.

“Being a highly competitive person in all phases of life, I cherish the days that I can give back. Inspired by the will and tenacity of the Operation Beach head Athletes, I respect their competitiveness and passion for life. The biggest reward I seek is being a part of such an incredible five star organization that puts smiles on people’s faces while giving them the experience of a lifetime.”

Joe McEvoy ~ Operation Beachhead Member - Waterman

Joe is an eighteen-year veteran of The U.S. Marine Corps as well as a veteran of Air Force Special Operations Rescue.

Since 1995 he has been a Rescue Swimmer/Swiftwater Technician for The Belmar First Aid Squad's "Belmar Water Rescue Team".

He is employed on the water full-time in marine construction with the Dockbuilders/Timbermen Local Union 1556 out of Manhattan.

Larry Sidoti ~ Operation Beachhead Member & Waterman

I was introduced to Operation Beachhead a few years ago by my God Daughter and her cousin Maria who is a Catcher/Cheerleader in the organization.

As a NAVY VETERAN, diver, surfer and a person who believes in giving something back to OUR Veterans and disabled Brothers and Sisters I became involved.

OUR Founding Father, Michael Ricci, has put together a CREW that are unbelievably dedicated and I am HONORED to be a small part of it.

The JOY exhibited by the people we work with is only surpassed by our being able to take them away from their wheelchairs, crutches and disabilities for a few hours in the OCEAN…


Mat Giachetti ~ Waterman

Mat volunteers at the Operation Beachhead summer events.  He is on hand as a surf and kayak volunteer, lifeguard, EMT and filling in wherever else there is a need. Mat also volunteers his time to teach the other Operation Beachhead volunteers CPR and First Aid.

Mat Giachetti is a Martial Arts Instructor, as well as a CDT Tactical Master Instructor and a Child Safety Instructor.  He specializes in teaching police, military, and security personnel.  Mat is a 2nd degree Black Belt in Okinawan Kempo, and in TaeKwonDo/Hapkido.  He is the 1999 Garden State Games Fighting Champion ? Open Black Belt Division, and has twice been inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame; in 1999 as the Martial Artist of the Year, and in 2000 as the Tactical Instructor of the Year.  Mat has also served as an Executive Protection Agent for over 20 years.

Brian Zucker ~ Operation Beachhead Accountant ~ Catcher

Brian Zucker is the CFO and Financial Operations Principal for numerous broker dealers and hedge funds. Mr. Zucker is currently a partner with the prestigious accounting firm, Rosenberg, Rich, Baker and Berman, (RRBB). He serves in several capacities with Operation Beachhead from selling apparel  to being a catcher.

John Richter ~ Operation Beachhead Member

John, a New Jersey native, grew up appreciating the Atlantic Ocean and its beaches of New Jersey from Belmar, as a baby, to Seaside Heights, Wildwood, and Cape May.  John lives with his wife Irene, a retired French teacher, in Branchburg, NJ.  They have two sons, Daniel and Paul, and two grandchildren.  A US Navy veteran, John served on active duty aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga from 1967 to 1969. 


John hasn’t been able to enjoy his beloved ocean for almost 15 years due to his being diagnosed with ALS – Lou Gherig’s Disease. Thanks to the wonderful volunteers and all involved with Operation Beachhead he was recently able to again enjoy the Atlantic Ocean, paddling a two-person kayak for the first time of his life! 


John believes that when fate prevents you from doing things you no longer are able to physically do, just concentrate on the gifts you have that you can do, which is why he considers himself very fortunate to be somewhat an accomplished oil painter today.  He is an active member of the Belmar Arts Council, and Ocean County Artists’ Guild. To see some of John's work, click here.


Thanks to Operation Beachhead and all the people he's met, he’s decided to re-think things he thought he could no longer do!