William McKinley I.S. 259 Presents Annual Salute to Veterans

In what has become an annual tradition, William McKinley I.S. 259 celebrated veterans and service members on Fri., Nov. 9.

Under the direction of English teacher Jessica Amato, the students presented a lively salute to the nation’s military with guests from all branches of the armed forces and veterans from various wars in attendance.

Amato thanked Principal Janice Geary for her vision in allowing the ceremony to become a yearly event. Geary said that the purpose of the ceremony is to honor those who have bravely served our country in all branches of the service.

“They’ve served in peace and they’ve served in war,” Geary said. “These brave Americans stand for honor and commitment.” She added that next year is the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day and promised a big celebration at McKinley.

Fort Hamilton Army Base commanding officer Col. Andrew Zieseniss delivered the keynote speech. “You all have made my week,” Zieseniss said. “I’ve been to a number of events this week for Veterans Day and they’ve all been fantastic, but I think this is my favorite.”

He told the students that he’d already marked his calendar and was looking forward to being invited back next year for the 100th anniversary celebration.

Zieseniss said that he’s been an infantry soldier for 24 years and impressed the kids with tales of jumping out of airplanes and traveling all over the world.

He said that he was inspired to serve after listening to his grandfather’s stories about being a soldier during World War II and his father’s stories about serving in Vietnam.

Guest speakers included Vietnam War veteran Concepcion “Connie” Ranocchia, who was recently inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame; Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade Chair Ray Aalbue; Vietnam War veteran Barry Berger; Danny Friedman, president of the Brooklyn chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America; World War II veteran Bill Miller; Disabled American Veterans Commander Herb Morales and United States Coast Guard Petty Officer John Cohen.

Ranocchia told the students that they were the future of this country. “You don’t have to be in the military to serve,” she said. “There are other ways to serve your country.”

Aalbue talked to the students about the meaning of the word veteran. He said that “If you were to ask any of these veterans behind me what the definition is, I bet they would say the following: A veteran is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including his or her life.”

McKinley student Gigi Tarasco introduced the winners of an essay contest about why we appreciate veterans. Aahraf Bhuyian, Ivan Ignatov and Farwa Tashin read their essays.

A highlight of the event was a video presentation in which student Bianca Marcial interviewed her grandfather Jasper LaBarbera, a 94-year-old veteran of World War II, via Facetime. When she asked him what he did in the service, he said that he served on a battleship and “shot a big gun.”

Amato summed up the ceremony by expressing her gratitude to the service men and women.

“As one community, we shared a wonderful message: we appreciate veterans,” Amato told this paper. “As a result of their sacrifices, we’re afforded opportunities to be the best we can be as individuals, and as a civic-minded community, which cares about the greater good.”

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