Bravery in the Halls: Shore’s Veterans Day Celebration

Seniors assemble in the RTO to discuss the draft and much more

Grace Walker and Grace DiCianni

On November 6, thirty veterans from the local area came to Shore Regional for a special Veterans Day celebration. To welcome these brave men into our schools, students from every grade lined the hallways, clapped and waved flags as they walked the halls. Each man was different, some older, having served in WWII, and some younger, having served more recently. Another man, who was missing both his legs, made his way down the hall in a wheelchair, showing students and faculty the brutal reality of the war and staggering bravery of those who participated in it. 

To open the ceremony, Assistant Principal Mr. Bruccoleri gave a few words about the meaning of freedom, and how we often take it for granted. He was followed by Senator Vin Gopal, the chairman of The Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Gopal spoke about the importance of ceremonies like these, and how he hopes other schools across the country are following in our footsteps. Following Mr. Gopal were Gingerbread House preschoolers, dressed in festive outfits and handmade hats, who spoke kind words about the plethora of veterans sitting behind them and sang God Bless America for the entire auditorium. Mr. Peter Bova, a veteran of WWII and Omaha Beach, spoke about his time in the war with each of his brothers, and even briefly about his experience as a Nazi POW, captivating the audience before they broke out into their individual sessions. 

In the RTO, students and faculty members filed in to listen to Vietnam veterans speak about their time in the war. Before they began, they emphasized that they would not be answering any questions about killing, for the memories were too painful. While most of the men in the room were volunteers, one differed from the rest. Bob Jacobs was a high school history teacher in Freehold Township when he got the news: he had been drafted into the Vietnam war. He explained to his audience the process of the draft, and even asked kids their birthdays, telling them whether or not they would have been drafted and at what point in the war. This demonstration had kids astonished, consumed by the harsh reality of the randomness of the draft. 

Each veteran spoke about the harshness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how they dealt with it when they encountered it themselves. They described it as losing touch with reality, because they were not able to process the true trauma of the war until they were back home. Contributing to their experiences with PTSD were the quick transitions from battlefield to home. Toward the end of the war, the US started working hard to get soldiers out of Vietnam as quickly as they could. Multiple men were being shipped out by plane each day. “You could be being shot at one second and then be home 72 hours later,” said Bob Hopkins, an Army first lieutenant in the Vietnam war. Although they each went through unique experiences, they all felt the same way, utterly proud to have done what they did for their country, and if they were asked to serve again, knowing what they now know, they would do it all over for that same sense of pride. 

By the end of the presentation, students in the RTO were grateful for what they had learned. Talking about traumatic events is not always easy, but these men did so with pride and a sincere sense of honor. Senior Isabella Saponaro, who viewed the presentation in the RTO, said “It was thrilling to learn about their experiences, and the courage and bravery they show is truly astonishing. I feel as if sometimes we take our freedoms for granted, because we have always had them, but it is thanks to these men that we have been able to keep them. Each year, the presentations really make me think and feel thankful.”