WEST LONG BRANCH: "It's a new tradition, honoring our veterans" said Shore Regional Board of Ed member Frank Pingitore at a morning of veterans sharing their military experiences.
He was largely acknowledged for establishing the Honor Our Veterans program at the school, an opportunity for our young people to plan ahead for their future and learn a valuable history.
The school students were visited by American military veterans with first hand experiences of the conflicts the country has lived through in the last 75 years.
Chairs for students were arranged in the library where veterans from the Viet Nam conflict showed slides and shared experiences of what that war was like. The display used included military garb, special equipment and devices, helmets, back packs and more.
A student "volunteered" to be decked out in the army gear used while on duty, an 8 pound helmet, and the other gear worn days on end and weighing 50 to 60 pounds, including 3 days rations for most. For some soldiers their job was communications and their total carried equipment brought the pounds up to 135 or so.
These battlefield images took on real life and students were impressed. They asked about the experiences. They heard a lot not often shared by veterans, the result of vets putting some experiences behind them, but not forgetting.
In the school auditorium other veterans answered questions that fit into concerns and of young people looking ahead to their own lives and careers.
"What do you get from military experience that will help you later in life," one student asked.
The answers from retired Col. Mike Ruane was that one learns values of honor, integrity and accountability for fellow service members and respect for those who are a part of your life. His two sons, now in service, Tom and Jim were on the stage with him. They added: team work, personal responsibility, and "doing the right things even when others are not looking".
The guests of the Board of Ed, twenty six U.S. Military Veterans, men and women who addressed the students have served the nation in the past and recent years since World War II.
The morning activity closed it was a morning filled with conversation with high school students, helping them to understand what the world would be had veterans not given years of their lives to protect the freedom we enjoy today.
School system personnel and staff created, with the veterans the special event, with Asst. Principal Jim Simonelli orchestrating the volunteers who worked diligently to put it together for the school and especially in honor of the veterans. The tradition will continue as Mr. Simonelli made sure to get signatures and addresses in planning for 2016.
"It was a great program," said Superintendent Tom Farrell, The responses of the students was most positive, a serious look ahead to encourage them to plan their lives, place high value on education, and take on personal responsibility for their futures.
The veterans were: Lt. General Robert Ferrell, Colonel Michael Ruane, Sgt. Yeon Santana, Sgt. Brandy Rodriguez, Andrew Campi, Michael George, Ernie DiOrio, Mauro Bacolo, Don Davison, James Bereton, Robert Musari, Drew Musari, Jose Rodriguez, Joseph Foster, Frank Kirkstad, Richard Smeltzer, George Carroll, Mike Quilty, Bob Hopkins, Dan Higgins, Greg Kucharski, Lee Nilsen, Anthony Migliaccio, Walter Frattin, Jim Ruane 1st lieutenant, Tom Ruane - 1st Lieutenant, an Paul Hester