ELIZABETH, NJ – Three, young Elizabeth men who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country were honored, October 27, by their alma mater, Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. Health and Public Safety Academy, in a ceremony opening the school’s new iLeap Center.
The iLeap Center is a digital media center that gives students wireless internet access to a vast supply of online reference materials such as textbooks, instructional videos, newspapers, and magazines. The new facility includes the Wall of Heroes, dedicated Army Cpl. Luigi Marciante, Jr.; Marine Lance Cpl. Francisco R. Jackson; and Army Spec. Pedro Millet Meletiche.
Army Corporal Marciante Jr. was born in Elizabeth on November 10, 1981, and was killed in action on September 20, 2007, in Iraq. Army Specialist Millet Meletiche was born in Puerto Rico on April 23, 1990, and was killed in action August 22, 2010, in Afghanistan. Marine Lance Corporal Jackson was born in the Dominican Republic on December 24, 1985, and killed in action October 19, 2010, in Afghanistan.
At the ceremony, Halsey’s ROTC instructor Ret. Marine Corps Colonel Bob Golden was the keynote speaker. “We are very proud of these folks who came from this school. We don’t talk about it, but this is an all-volunteer military. Less than 1 percent is defending our freedom. They are more about you than about themselves, so we can continue our lifestyles. They set an example of selfless service that the students here can emulate.”
The families of the fallen soldiers attended the ceremony. Maria Diaz, aunt of Marine Lance Cpl. Francisco R. Jackson, sat on a brightly upholstered chair, wiping tears from her eyes. “He was like a son to me,” she said, expressing how touched she was by the ceremony. “They continue to remember him. They have not forgotten him.”
The father of Army Cpl. Luigi Marciante, Jr. remembered how his son wanted to follow in his footsteps. “He wanted to be a policeman when he was finished with his service,” explained Ret. Army Corporal Luigi Marciante, Sr., who was a police officer in his native Italy. “It was not to be.” Marciante, Jr. left behind his wife, Stephanie, and son, Lorenzo, who was a month old when his father died. The little boy never tires of telling people that his daddy is in heaven and asking, “Did you know him?”
Denise Meletiche stood before the red wall honoring her son. “He got his wish,” she said. “He always wanted to make me proud, and I am. I am the proudest mother in the world and thankful for his sacrifice. It is bittersweet, though. It hurts, yet I am still proud.”
Halsey’s new iLeap Center is decorated appropriately in red, white, and blue.