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High School East Principal Pat Thomas (left) stands with Intermediate East teacher and U.S. Army Major Rob Roma in front of the outdoor military wall, which was unveiled during a dedication ceremony Nov. 2.

Patriotic Ceremony Honors Veterans

To honor all those who serve in the US military, High School East held a ceremony at the school where a Military Wall was unveiled in time for Veterans Day on November 11. The idea to erect a monument outside of the school that honors all branches of the military came from the school’s Military Support Club members and HSE’s School Resource Officer and club co-advisor Scott Kenny.

As described by Officer Kenny, the wall was built to be “strong and supportive like the military, which serves as the backbone and defense of our country.”

Many honored guests, including Congressman Tom MacArthur, Toms River council members, district administrators, current and past members of the military, students, and staff gathered in the school cafeteria for the dedication ceremony. It was a patriotic and, at times, emotional ceremony where current and past members of the military were honored and remembered for their service and sacrifice to our country.

Principal Pat Thomas felt that the ceremony was a great way to recognize people of good character. He told guests, “Today, we honor those who put themselves before others, those who stand up for their beliefs. These are the people who are heroes in this world, those who are willing to die for their beliefs.”

He took a moment to remember High School East alum US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Denis C. Miranda who died in a helicopter crash while serving his country in Afghanistan in 2010. Part of the Military Support Wall inside the school is dedicated to honoring his ultimate sacrifice. Principal Thomas called Miranda “a hero to the East family.”

Officer Kenny met many obstacles while trying to make the Military Wall become a reality, but he did not sway in his vision to have the wall built and finished in time for Veterans Day. In fact, Principal Thomas told guests that Kenny built much of the monument himself over the summer with the help from several local businesses that donated supplies, district employees who donated their time and efforts, and the HSE Class of 2013 who made a monetary donation.

“Officer Kenny is to be commended for his commitment to excellence,” said Principal Thomas.

Though not in the military himself, Officer Kenny’s father was a Marine and his two sons currently serve in the military. He said his father passed on certain character traits to him like self-discipline, pride, and to never sit on the sidelines. These are traits that he has passed on to his own children and also tries to pass on to students at High School East as tools to enhance their lives.

“There are countless sacrifices families endure when a family member is in the military,” said an emotional Kenny. “There are missed family events, meals, and holidays. I endure this in my own family and that is why I am thankful that the Raider family recognizes those sacrifices and supported my efforts for the Military Wall.” 

Before the ceremony, a US Army National Guard helicopter landed near the school. The school’s chorus and band provided patriotic music with songs like America the Beautiful, God Bless America, and The Star Spangled Banner.

When Congressman Tom MacArthur addressed the audience he said, “The music offerings brought my eyes, gaze, and heart above all the negative noise in our country. I thank you for that.”

He went on to commend the school and its efforts in honoring veterans with the memorial.

“It is important for us all to stop in the moment and think about the people who are in harm’s way and the families who are left picking up the pieces after a tragic event,” said Congressman MacArthur. “Not everyone is called to serve in the military, and those who aren’t must support and respect those who are serving. We owe a debt of gratitude to all veterans.”

The Military Wall at High School East will be a permanent reminder to everyone who passes by it of the sacrifices made each day by members of the US military.  

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