A Xaverian student and the school’s Key Club has collaborated to pay tribute to those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Stefano Ientile, who is currently in his senior year and president of the Key Club, wanted to honor all veterans and active military members, so he decided to pay tribute to them and taking care of the school’s Barkaloo Cemetery.
“This really all started from Stefano’s idea to restore the cemetery,” said Marianna Teta, faculty moderator, who praised Ientile for his work. “The club raised, because of Stefano, about $5,000 (to fix the cemetery’s flagpole) and they’re going to be restoring everything in the spring.”
On Friday December 15, Ientile, veterans, faculty members and the Key Club placed wreathes on the gravesite of two revolutionary war soldiers: Simon Cortelyou and Harmans Barkalooo as part of Wreaths Across America.
The ceremony meant a lot to Ientile since he started his tenure at the Bay Ridge school.
“In my sophomore year, I discovered a photo from the Brooklyn Public Library archives,” he said. “It was a photo from 1962. By looking at that photo and what the cemetery looked like now, I realized it was a huge difference. So being the president of the Key Club, I proposed to the board of directors that we should do something about this and they unanimously agreed on it. I’m a senior now. We’ve been trying to fix up the cemetery. One of the main things we’ve done is the flag pole and in the spring we’re going to be doing restoration of the bricks and landscaping.”
The flagpole went up spring of 2017, during Ientile’s senior year.
“These are men and women who died for an ideology that they believed in,” he said. “At the time, it was seen as something that was crazy. Now many would consider this one of the greatest nations on the face of the planet. Even though they didn’t know at the time, they gave up their lives to make something that we cherish today and develop a nation we all so love today. Today we are having a wreath ceremony and it’s basically to honor the veterans.”
Although the afternoon was snowy and cold, everyone was honored to be a part of the ceremony, which Ientile also spearheaded.
“It is fantastic weather for a wreath laying ceremony,” he said. “You can’t get better weather than this. To be able to see my Key Club and people from the community get a group together and do this small act of kindness for these two men who gave up their lives during the Revolutionary War, it really is a great thing to see. It’s terrific during the holiday season.”
Principal Deacon Kevin McCormack was also in attendance and was thrilled with the dedication of Ientile and the students. “I am so proud of him and the kids,” he said. “This was all them. They drew me here and I’m honored that they pushed me here to be where I’m supposed to be. These are the kinds of kids we have here at Xaverian.”
He then explained the meaning of the ceremony.
“The school is based on tradition and the respect of the community,” he said. “Obviously the church, but truly the whole American community. What we have here is remembrance of people who fought for our country at the Battle of Long Island, Battle of Brooklyn and we remember them in a very sacred way. Its important that these kids in the 21st century that they stand on the shoulders of the giants who went before them. That’s why we take time on this cold day — to make sure we give honor to the people who served our country and do it in a respectful way.”
United States Navy Veteran Phil Ameneiros was also in attendance and had the honor of laying the wreaths.
“This day means everything to me,” he said. “I served my country for six years. These gentlemen did the same. They did even more. Anytime I can assist in any shape or form I will. I’m proud these students understand and are doing this.”
“This is a really small ceremony to honor men and women who died and that sacrificed their lives for an ideology they truly believed in,” Inentile said during the ceremony. “It’s fitting that today, during the holiday season, we take just a little time out of our schedule to honor the men and women who sacrificed themselves for their country.”