(Editor's Note: Heather Hernandez is a senior at North Plainfield High School and an intern for TAPInto North Plainfield.) 

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ ­­– November is Military Family Appreciation Month – a time to celebrate military families and to honor the commitment and sacrifices made by the families of service members. At North Plainfield High School, there are many students, past and present, with strong military ties.

Among them is Corporal Victor Solis, 24, an alumnus of NPHS and a retired member of the United States Marine Corps. In July 2010, Solis decided to join the Marines and, the following June, was deployed to Afghanistan. Over the next five years, Solis, an infantry rifleman whose home base was in North Carolina, served in the Middle East, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Germany among other places

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Solis said he chose to become an infantry rifleman because he felt it was a unique job and one he was very passionate about. He describes the Marines as a brotherhood and although being away from his wife and daughter was hard – he missed his daughter’s first birthday and other events – those were the sacrifices that came with his decision to serve his country.

“Worse times bring out your true colors so the suffering brings us together,” Solis said.

Mikayla Duncan, a senior at North Plainfield High School, also knows firsthand what it is like having a family member in the military means as her mother, Sergeant First Class Barrera, has been active in the Army National Guard for 23 years. When Sergeant Barrera is out serving the country, the mother and daughter stay in touch via Skype calls and, when possible, regular phone calls.

“You never know what’s going to happen so when they come home safe and sound, there’s an explosion of relief and happiness,” Duncan said.

At NPHS, the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) program is helping 120 students in ninth through 12th grade gain a better perspective of military personnel and veterans. Offered at North Plainfield since 2003 and currently run by Lieutenant Colonel Eric Hansen and Senior Chief Michael DeJean, the goal of the program is to develop such military values in students as discipline and pride and respect for one's country.

The program is comprised of three different branches through which students are provided basic military intelligence about the United States government’s chain of command and taught drill movements, formations and more. Additionally, the NJROTC is a program focuses on character building, education, student achievement, wellness, leadership and diversity.

 “It exposed me to a school experience different from what I experienced before and made me realize skills that I didn’t know I had,” Duncan, who has been a member of North Plainfield’s NJROTC for three years, said, noting that NJROTC helped her broaden her view of the military and realize that her success in the program came from her mother’s experience.

“I’ve found that a lot of what I had to do to succeed in the program came from my mom’s experience being in the military,” she said.

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