SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A moving Memorial Day ceremony and special dedication was held at South Plainfield Middle School on May 27.

Students, teachers, local dignitaries, special guests, district administrators, and members of the board of education gathered in the school’s courtyard at 9 a.m. to pay tribute to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“We must honor and remember our fallen but that alone is not enough,” Principal Kevin Hajduk, told the students. “They died not just for their country but for their comrades serving next to them. They died protecting those with whom they served. The lives saved are their legacy…”

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According to Hajduk, “These individuals are the distinct heroes that deserve our gratitude everyday as not only heroes but the backbone of our country’s values: honor, hope and prosperity.”

Mayor Matt Anesh told the students that events such as Friday’s assembly put into context what Memorial Day really means, reminding them that the day is much more than a kick off to summer, a day off from school or reason to barbecue, head down the shore, or take advantage of a store sale.

“Memorial Day shouldn't be turned into something it wasn't meant to be – a retail holiday, just another day off from school, or an unofficial kick off to a season…It is because they risked their lives and gave the ultimate sacrifice that you can experience those things …” Anesh said, adding, “We should be celebrating what it is those men and women did for us and why they did them … Hopefully, when you get up Monday and realize you do not have to go to school, you will remember that.”

During the ceremony, South Plainfield Middle School's band and orchestra performed various songs, including  ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ ‘Armed Forces March,’ ‘Hymn of Remembrance’ and ‘For Honor, For Country’ along with a special rendition of ‘Taps’ and ‘Amazing Grace.’ Tom Walsh of the South Plainfield Knights of Columbus presented eighth grader Samy Abdelsalam with a $50 check and certificate of achievement for being named a first place winner in the organization’s recent Substance Abuse Awareness poster contest. A special wreath and flag ceremony also took place. 

Additionally, this year’s South Plainfield Middle School Memorial Day ceremony also featured a special bench dedication in memory of the late Bill Mosca. A beloved husband, father, educator and coach, Mosca passed away in December 2013 at the age of 64. Mosca worked as a mechanical drawing teacher at the South Plainfield Middle School for 32 years and was also an assistant JV basketball coach for 10 years and head JV baseball coach and assistant at South Plainfield High School for over 31 years.

“He was the heart and soul of this building and a staple to South Plainfield High School baseball coaching staff for every one of those 31-plus years,” said South Plainfield Middle School teacher Joe Blondo, noting in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Mosca, along with fellow industrial arts department staff members Neal Aiello, Pete Primmer, and Jeff Spezio set out to create a lasting reminder of the sacrifice and heroism exhibited that day. In 2003, their efforts came to fruition in the form of a 9/11 Monument they worked to design, build and have erected in the school’s courtyard.

“In the years that followed, Mr. Mosca and Mr. Spezio often talked about building a bench for visitors to our middle school to sit and enjoy the monument,” said Blondo. “Mr. Spezio has built that bench that her and Bill talked so much about and dedicate that bench to our friend … “

The bench was unveiled during the ceremony by Aiello, Primmer, Spezio and art teacher Stephen Phillips and in attendance were Mosca’s wife, Maryann, along with two of his children, Lily and Katie. The bench, which is made of pine, bears a plaque dedicating it in memory of Bill Mosca and features the New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and 9/11 emblems. It will stand permanently in the courtyard facing the school’s 9/11 Memorial.

Dr. Johanna Ruberto, interim superintendent for South Plainfield Schools, said that events such as the middle school’s Memorial Day ceremony truly represent the community’s value base. “This courtyard, this school, this town, are all microcosmic of a greater world but, right at this moment, you represent, to me, America, leadership and valor,” Dr. Ruberto said.

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