WEST LONG BRANCH: For a third year the Shore Regional High seniors and juniors invited military veterans of the area, some graduates of SRHS, to visit and share their experiences in service to our country. Monday, November 7 was that day for 2016; the school is closed for the national holiday, Veteran's day, formerly Armistice Day.
The visit was warm, welcoming and most appreciated by the two dozen veterans from World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam, to the latest conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the veterans it was also an occasion to meet friends from the previous visits. For Shore HS teachers, staff and volunteers it was the opportunity to host the event and a happy opportunity to add their "Thank you" to the veterans along with the150 or so students.
The event in its third year was inspired by the Board of Education's Frank Pingitore with enthusiasm of the BOE and school officials. Superintendent Thomas Farrell and his SRHS team has welcomed the affair with open doors and a 90 minute visitation for vets and students to break into classroom groups for up close conversations of "What was it like?"
The school auditorium served to have other students also meet the veterans and hear the words about the experiences of all the veterans including the three SRHS graduates and their experience in their military careers.
Retired veteran Greg Martinez was in the US Navy in Viet Nam from 1968 to 19870. His experience prepared him for his life today, he said. He is proud of his daughter, now in the Navy Reserve.
For Retired Colonel Michael Ruane, SHRS grad who served from 1968 to retirement, his military brought him a firm appreciation for what this country is about, freedom and it gave him his skills of leadership he continues to employ in his post military careers. He has 2 sons in the military and they have learned leadership. "You will be the leaders of the future" he told the students. "We need you"' he said in his closing remarks.
Continuing the emphasis on education and its application in the military and private life, and Brigadier General Andrea Tullos, a graduate of Shore also, spoke of her military career covering overseas assignments and leading to her present post in Washington D.C. Her message. Like those of her military comrades on the SRHS at-stage on Monday was to all students to work hard and achieve their best in education. The military has further embraced women in the services as demonstrated by her own achievements. She recalled her early days when the military was still adjusting to women in field positions. Her message was also one of working hard for what you want, with education as a most important tool in achieving that success.
The veterans also enjoyed the school visit as a chance to share and to emphasize how they feel about what it takes to preserve freedom here in the USA and how their experiences in other places in the world showed just how fortunate we are here.
One Vietnam veteran shared of being in Nam and helping the citizens and families there, part of the assignment when they took over a town vacated by Viet Cong military who lost the battle for the town. He described the welcome they received from the townspeople who, although most poor and needy, shared what they had as a courtesy - a cultural thing- inviting the soldiers onto their mud hut homes and offering the soldiers to share their meager supply of food and tea.
In answer to a student's question, another veteran said yes, he would go back today just to "see how they are doing." Both men said we are so fortunate here to enjoy our freedom, and how they were a part of defending it.
The day for veterans will continue in future years, Superintendent Farrell said. "We owe a lot to our veterans, including our country and our freedom."