WAYNE, NJ – Passaic County Technical-Vocational Schools (PCTVS) held a Pearl Harbor Remembrance event on Friday to both honor our veterans and to ingrain into students the sacrifices that were made by every American during the time of World War II.

"We have a strong patriotic culture here at PCTVS," said Sandy Woods, Director of Communications/Special Projects at PCTVS.  "We recognize our veterans during the course of the year on 9/11, Veteran's Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and Memorial Day.” 

The PCTVS auditorium quickly filled to capacity with a mix of students and veterans from around the county and the state who come frequently to PCTVS’ memorial events.

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To begin, the NJROTC Color Guard, resplendent in full uniform and marching in tight discipline, brought the flag to the front of the packed auditorium and up on stage. As they stood in rigid attention, the PCTVS Vocal Ensemble sang an amazing and moving rendition of the National Anthem, that received thunderous applause.

Cathy Pagano, the Coordinator of Patriotic Programs for PCTVS came to the podium and spoke briefly: “Seventy-eight years ago, Pearl Harbor was attacked. We remember and we honor all those that paid the ultimate sacrifice that day. And all those that were impacted by the events that day: the wounded, the families, our nation.”

A video created by the Boys and Girls State students was shown on a huge screen on stage that told the story of Pearl Harbor, showing moving images of that day, FDR’s famous words: “A date which will live in Infamy.” As well as PCTVS students talking about what they learned of the event and why it is important to remember.

A few quotes from the video:

“History teaches us that when its citizens have no sense of pride, or interest in their nation’s history, and fail to support its historic sites and memorials that serve as reminders of past glories or haunting crisis, the very survival of that nation – or that of its national character – are put in jeopardy.     

We must always remember our history. While there were painful lessons learned, it is also the source of our inner strength and our spirit. We must never allow that torch to flicker out.                                                     

It is for this reason that we here at Passaic County Technical Vocational Schools, choose to honor and remember.”

In what was considered the most moving part of the ceremony, the PCTVS dance ensemble came on stage and performed to ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.’ Their dance brought tears to many of the veteran’s eyes.

December 16, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last major offensive battle of World War II and one of the key victories by the allies. 

Pagano gave the audience a short history lesson about the battle and its importance, as well as the casualty rates. “Over one million soldiers from both sides were involved in the Battle of the Bulge,” said Pagano. “It is considered the second deadliest battle in American history.”

Approximately 20,000 soldiers died on both sides during the bloody, month-long battle.

Present at the PCTVS event was Jerry Manning, the President of the local chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and Pagano asked Manning to stand to receive a round of applause as a representative of those who fought and died that day. The entire auditorium rose to their feet in a standing ovation.

Manning took the microphone and said: “I find it a little difficult, because I get very emotional. When I joined the local chapter, out in Picatinny Arsenal, we had twenty-one members who were in the battle. At our last meeting, we had six veterans left with us.” He had to wipe tears from his eyes, before continuing: “I just want to thank everyone for showing up today and for helping everyone to remember what happened on December 16, 1944.”

Two cadets next came to the stage for the playing of TAPS as a tribute to those who had perished in both Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Bulge. The entire audience stood in silent respect as the mournful tones brought more tears.

Following this, the NJROTC came to the stage for a flag-passing ceremony that, like every part of this event, was done with great respect and care and filled with moving emotion.

As the poem, I Am The Flag, was read by NJROTC instructor, Chief Petty Officer Santiago, USN, Retired, NJROTC cadets, slowly and with military precision, passed a folded flag, representing all who had died serving our country, from cadet to cadet across the stage. The hundreds in attendance watched in complete silence and could not help being moved by the solemnity of the ceremony.

Afterword, a memorial wreath was placed at the PCTVS Veteran’s Park just outside the school with TAPs once again being played.  Then, all of the veterans were served a lunch prepared by the PCTVS culinary students.

John Harris, the Passaic County Veterans Service Officer and a veteran himself, was in attendance at the event and said: “I couldn’t be more impressed with every single moment in that ceremony. This school has really stepped up in honoring the veterans and they bring pride to the veterans, which is why we get so many to come out to these events. We need to keep telling the stories, and [PCTVS] is doing it. This is just a great program all the way around.”

“What’s so encouraging to me,” said Darrel Collins the Department Vice Commander of the New Jersey American Legion, “was the ROTC cadets because they were so on point, and it seemed like they really enjoyed it. So, this is our future and that is encouraging to me.”

Henry McCormick, an Army and Vietnam Veteran said: “I come three times a year, for years because it’s good to see that our youth are aware of what we did.” McCormick added: “The whole program was emotional; the flag-passing ceremony, the dancing, TAPS, the choir. Everything was so beautiful to me.”

Felicia Diaz and Gloria Tallisch are part of the vocal ensemble and were asked what it meant to them to be a part of the event and to sing for the veterans. “It means a lot because they’ve done so much for us, so it’s nice to give them a little bit of entertainment somehow,” said Diaz.

Tallisch added: “That we can help bring memories back through song. It means a lot because I feel like we’re doing something for them in return for the service they’ve done for all of us.”

Connor Wang is a senior at PCTVS and part of the Boys State program which is run by the American Legion. He was asked why the event was important to him and his fellow students. “A lot of us feel like when we were born, that was the beginning of history,” he said. “A presentation like this shows that things that happened before our birth really affect us; affects who we are as a country; who we are as individuals. Analyzing what happened then and realizing the importance and the gravity of those events needs to inform our decisions on how we act and ultimately how we live.”

PCTVS is keeping history alive in a way that few can replicate. The presentation ran across multiple-disciplines and groups throughout the school, getting everyone involved and creating an immersive event that used emotion to show the importance of not only remembering, but memorializing and appreciating the sacrifices made at the time that affect our present lives.