RANDOLPH, NJ- Veterans Day 2014, was a day full of appreciation and lessons at Randolph Middle School. Relatives of RMS students who are Veterans of the U.S. Military, visited the school to share their experiences with the kids. There was an air of admiration and respect from students and faculty alike directed towards the 38 guests at the school.
The visiting Veterans service ranged from WW2, Persian Gulf War, Cuban Missile Crisis, Iraq, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, all the way to present day active duty.
Through the combined efforts of Randolph Parent Doreen Madallion, RMS teachers Rich Sackerman and Agatha Wilke, and Vice Principal Dave Kricheff, this day was made possible for a second time, and will now be an annual event.
The day began with a light breakfast in the cafeteria for the visitors. Over the school loudspeaker, two RMS students had the privilege of singing the National Anthem, another recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and a fourth played Taps on trumpet.
All of the students were equally divided into groups by grade and team. Each Veteran was assigned one classroom in which to speak. The Veteran remained there while 3 different sets of students cycled in and out of the Veteran’s room.
Randolph TAP was able to attend, and visit a few of the veteran’s presentations.
LTC Michael Hill (recently became Lieutenant Colonel), who had attended last year’s event all the way from Afghanistan via Skype, attended in person this year. He now works at the Pentagon, where he is currently in the army reserves after having served in Desert Storm and Afghanistan.
Hill was asked questions about bombs, spiders and whether he was allowed to drive big trucks. He said, “Speaking with the kids in person was a little more intimidating this year, rather than by video last year.”
Mike Lozier, a former Marine from 1992-2007, was challenged with questions about gas mask training, seeing others injured, and whether or not they ever have free time. This led to an informative discussion on the privilege of having free time and what the ranking is like. Lozier got some chuckles when he explained that "free time" didn't mean hanging around playing on i-pads like many middle school kids probably do.
Lozier felt that “The Middle School did a fantastic job honoring veterans, allowing us to share our stories with the children who asked great questions.”
Anthony Paolazzi served in the army during WWII from 1945-47. He brought in dog tags, pins and his old jacket to pass around the classroom, with granddaughter Jaime assisting. He spoke about weapons he used in training. Paolazzi later expressed, “It was nice to tell the kids the five countries where I was in Europe.”
Joel Bodnar, who was stationed in Vietnam as a Dentist in 1967-68, spoke about his homecoming after being away from his family for over a year, mentioning his son wearing a Yankee Doodle outfit when he arrived home. He said “Visiting the school was exciting, and I was nervous. Speaking about this to the kids brought back a million memories. I was glad I could do it for my granddaughter Dylan.”
Captain Jake Sackerman, now a police officer in the Marine Corps reserves, spoke to the students last year as well. Sackerman was in active duty for four years through this past June. He served a six-month tour in Afghanistan in 2013.
Sackerman educated the kids on the branches of the military and explained, “There really is no other job like it in the world.” He also explained to the kids what it was like being commissioned at 23 years old.
Major Lisa Palmer, a 1996 Randolph High School graduate, also visited for a third year in a row and spoke about serving as a nurse while raising a family, a difficult challenge. She is now stationed at the Pentagon as well.
The students engaged in a very meaningful Veteran Day celebration as they listened to the stories the veterans had to share and the wealth of knowledge they were able to give them.
At the conclusion of the 3rd session, all of the Veterans and their guests came to the cafeteria for a light brunch.
Madalian expressed, “ ‘Better School, Better World’ This day underscores the historical portion of American citizenship, as students learn from those who served that the freedoms we enjoy, others do not.”
Principal Dennis Copeland who is very supportive of this event, was “Pleased to have such a large turnout and be able to share the experiences with every student in such an intimate setting.”
Thank you to all Veterans, especially the following RMS visitors: Keith Nitka, Sgt Raymond J. Bersch, C.C. Nessel (LCDR MC), Jim McConnell, Cliff Gauthier, Joseph Caliguire, Les Neufeld, Nipa Neufeld, John O'Brien, Marion O'Brien, Anthony Pall, Mike Lozier, LTC Michael Hill , Chris Scroggins, Karl Lutschewitz, Bob Wajszczuk, John Reilly, Robert Dobres Sr, Ray Roper, Michael Rodriguez, Anthony Paolazzi, Russell Seib, Capt Joel Bodnar, Shawn Ryan (via Skype), Andrew Honeycheck ,Major Harlan Mckinney, Major Lisa Palmer, Capt. Jake Sackerman, John Wagener, Steve Mestman, Wes Martin, "Jack" John P. Brennan Jr., Brian Keil, Major Chris Hai, LeRoy Aiken, Edward Satorius, Mike Legregni , Ms Lee Wildon, and Salvatore Bello (via Skype).