SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Dozens of veterans from all branches of the United States Military were honored this week at ceremonies held at two South Plainfield elementary schools. 

Approximately 30 veterans, including men and women representing the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy, attended Veterans Day programs at John F. Kennedy on Nov. 11 and Franklin on Nov. 13. Also in attendance were family members, district administrators, and board of education members along with borough and state representatives. 

“It was an honor to have over thirty US veterans spend time with us on Veterans Day,” said Kevin Hajduk, principal of Kennedy School. “It is so important for the children to not only hear about the importance of our veterans in our country, but also see them in our schools.”

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“This event is very important to keep our youth educated on how grateful we all should be to all our veterans, every day,” added Franklin Principal Ralph Errico. “It keeps our students involved in meeting the heroes that have protected and still are protecting our freedoms.”

The programs at both schools provided an opportunity for students to honor the men and women who served. At Kennedy, fourth grader Jaxon Diaz led the veterans into the gymnasium where family members, students, and staff were gathered. Fourth graders Maya Copolla, Julia Gonzalez, Gianna Kuzma, and Amy Martinez, accompanied by music teacher Barbara Habeeb, performed the national anthem. 

Veterans and special guests were welcomed by fourth grader Mia DeRoma and first grade teacher Sandy Doyon, fourth grader Julia Gonzalez discussed ‘What is Veterans Day,’ Kennedy’s Class of 2020 performed an ‘Armed Forces Medley,’ fourth grader Ava Valluzzi spoke and classmates Maxx and Skylar Boos presented a ceremonial wreath that will be displayed in the school for the remainder of the year. The ceremony also featured an address by student council representatives Salene Morris and Ava Nieves and United States Army veteran Richard Doerr was a guest speaker. The hour-long program concluded with all of the students joining together to sing “God Bless the USA” and Principal Hajduk addressing the crowd. 

“The heroes we celebrated today at Kennedy School are symbolic of our message within the school to show gratitude to one another every day, especially in November. It was great to watch the children show respect and gratitude to such a deserving group of individuals,” said Hajduk, adding, “We are very blessed as a country to have had these individuals on our side protecting our freedoms as a great nation. All veterans are heroes and should be celebrated everyday of the year, not just today.”

At Franklin, which held its 26th annual Veterans Day program Wednesday, the ceremony featured patriotic songs by the Franklin School Chorus, under the direction of music teacher Glenn Parisi, along with a special performance of “Mr. Postman” by several teachers. Students Sophia Morales Aldana (kindergarten), Lilliana Davis (fourth grade), Juliana Elias (first grade), Ione Lambert (fourth grade), Alisa Martinez (fourth grade), and Isabella Rotondo (third grade) also had the opportunity to read their original Veterans Day poems and guest speakers included Councilman Robert Bengivenga, State Senator Patrick Diegnan, and World War II veteran Joe Vella. 

As in previous years, members of the Franklin School Student Council, along with co-advisors Jane Bishop and Sally Gillis, also presented a donation to Pup Tent 41. This year, $2,000 was raised through a district-wide jeans day and candy fundraiser, with the monies going to help patients at area VA hospitals. Additionally, at the conclusion of the program, several veterans gathered outside to honor the late United States Army Sergeant Trista Moretti, a lifelong resident and Franklin alumnus killed in action in June 2007. 

“I would like to thank, first and foremost, all of the veterans who attend the program each year. I love seeing their smiles,” said Errico, also extending thanks to the Franklin staff and student body. “The entire staff works hard from the first day of school to make this so special for our veterans and my students spend hours learning all the songs and writing such great essays to honor our veterans,” he said.

Both Veterans Day ceremonies were attended by Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Flora Malyska and South Plainfield Board of Education member Debbie Boyle with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak Councilwoman Christine Faustini and Councilwoman–elect Melanie Mott attending Franklin’s. 

 “A special thank you to Senator, Diegnan, Councilman Bengivenga, Councilwoman Faustini, Councilwomen-elect Mott, Superintendent Dr. Lishak, Assistant Superintendent Malyska, and board of education member Mrs. Boyle,” said Errico. “Thank you all.”

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