Fort Hamilton students get insights into military service

Fort Hamilton High School was treated to a day of celebrating and learning about our nation’s military during the inaugural Veterans and Military Appreciation Day on November 15.Throughout the day, students gathered inside the school auditorium where veterans as well as active soldiers discussed their experiences in the army.

Councilmember and Fort Hamilton High alum Vincent Gentile was on hand and thrilled to see the students’ interest throughout the soldiers’ speeches.

“I’m so pleased to be here. The students have been very attentive. They understand the importance of their life experiences and want to learn about them,” Gentile said. “I was able to get reelected because these men and women protect our democracy. It brings us together and reminds us that they fight for our freedom. That’s why we designed this beautiful mural at the athletic field outside the school.

Each class period, a new group of students was able to listen to the speakers. Chaplain Jamison Bowman, Jr. informed the audience of both the up-side and tremendous burden that comes with serving for our country.” In New York City, I’ve been treated better as a solider here than any other place I’ve been,” he noted. “They’re very pro-military here.”

Like many, the events of September 11 heavily impacted Bowman’s life. He said, “I picked up my kid from day care, went home and turned on the TV in horror as the towers fell. I knew as a pastor that there was a lot of suffering going on. I cried like a baby.”

Two years later, Bowman became a military chaplain. “Once I joined the military, I knew that this was my calling,” he said. “I don’t want anybody here to think that the military is all glory and fun. There’s hard work. But if you think about joining military service, just know that it is an honorable profession.”

He also gave insight on generosity of the Iraqi people. “What I was able to do was interact with the host nation,” Bowman said. “It’s an awesome place with beautiful people. Once, one of our huge trucks got a flat. While we little waiting, Iraqi kids came and gave us flat bread.”

Students were engaged throughout Bowman’s informative speech. Some even donned Army t-shirts to show their support. At the conclusion of Bowman’s speech, they were able to ask plenty of questions. One student asked if all war changed his religious views for better or worse. “My belief in Christianity has grown stronger,” he answered.

Lance Corporal (LCpl) Luis Felipe Giralde III, who just graduated two years ago from Fort Hamilton High, was proud to be able to visit his old school. “ It’s great to know that you can reach out to high school kids,” he said. So far his experience has been a positive one. “It’s been outstanding. The Corps has treated me well.”

Teacher Tanja Larsen helped organized the day. “I’ve honored veterans in my classroom before but I wanted to honor them properly by involving the entire school,” she explained. “I also didn’t think it was fair that only my students had the opportunity to experience something so positive and wanted more students to be included.”

She was more than pleased with the results. “The students have been excited about it. They love it,” Larsen said. “It helps them learn that the military can be an option for them. We usually don’t have the time to do these things, but to be able to show them something like this, it’s great.”

Larsen presented each soldier and veteran with a certificate from Gentile’s office, celebrating their service. Other organizers included faculty members Tara Henley, Nancy Tiedemann and Elizabeth McCabe.

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