(November 21st, 2018–Jersey City, NJ) Explore Middle School student council members visited the newly renovated Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2294 Samuel R. Shelton Post in Jersey City. Commander Tony Goodson, a former technology teacher at Explore and Vietnam War Purple Heart Recipient, led the assembly.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, Chef Mario and his cafeteria staff prepared a smorgasbord breakfast for the students to deliver accompanied by Supervisor and Student Council Coordinator, Jamie Valezquez, 6th grade Student Council Advisor, Angela Cirillo, and Administrative Secretary Michelle Jefferey.
The student council representatives each created thank you letters for the Veterans and spent time reading them aloud. “We are here to express our gratitude and commend you for courageously serving our country. Because of you, we can stand here proudly today with individual rights and liberties. You sacrificed your own life so that a person you never met before can live free. That is the greatest honor imaginable, and we thank you for it,” 6th graders Aidan Chapas, Mikail Oflaz, and Felix PS read from their letter.
As a special surprise for the honorees, 8th grader Sasha Caines sang an acapella version of Amazing Grace.
The veterans then introduced themselves to the students, told stories about their experiences and shared their reflections on what their service means to them. Veteran Leon Tucker Jr. enjoyed his morning with the students and later shared, “I was shocked with how interested the students were in our lives and our experiences. They asked such thoughtful questions and wrote such beautiful letters. I wanted to open-up to them, to share everything.”
Ms. Velazquez was humbled by her experience and can not wait to do it again next year. “It was an honor for us to meet a number of Jersey City’s local veterans. It’s one thing to watch a documentary or read a textbook chapter in class, but to be able to sit down with the vets and ask personal questions is a completely different experience.”