P.S. 108 celebrates veterans with special 6th annual event

Regina Gallagher Marengo, Full Commander of the U.S. Navy Seabees, and Joseph Garofalo, WWII U.S. Navy Seabees and Marine Corps. veteran, at Friday’s event.
Community News Group / Robert Wirsing

For those who gave so much, please accept this humble lunch.

“This is the sixth year for this Veterans Appreciation Day Celebration at the school and we try to change it up every year,” explained Michael Tierney, custodian engineer of P.S. 157 and formerly of P.S. 108. “The program started as a way to connect the young students to veterans and at the same time show that we haven’t forgotten the veterans as we honor and thank them.”

A World War II historian, Tierney combined his passion with his job at the school six years ago, connecting students with veterans to learn more about their nation’s history. He enlisted Charles Sperrazza, principal at P.S. 108, to aid in establishing the program.

“It has grown in popularity over the last several years,” said Sperrazza. “I would say today’s turnout in terms of parents, veterans, and people from the community is probably the best one by far.”

Held on Friday, November 7 inside the school, it began with a video presentation explaining the significance of Veterans Day.

The ‘Pin of Appreciation’ segment had students distributing flags and pins to the veterans and shaking their hands. At the trademark ‘Symbolic Table’, fifth grade students set a table reserved for POWs and MIAs in recognition of their sacrifices and memories.

A three-man army band presented a lively performance throughout as veterans, students, and attendees joined in singing patriotic tunes.

Over 50 former service members were in attendance for Friday morning’s celebration which featured several speakers including Tierney, Sperrazza, Councilman James Vacca, and Regina Gallagher Marengo, a full commander of the U.S. Navy Seabees, and Peter Solano, army band veteran, as honored speakers.

Marengo served an Iraq tour in 2008 and in Afghanistan from 2010 through 2011. Solano was attached to the ‘Big Red One’ infantry division during Vietnam as part of a traveling band that enterted the troops.

“I am so uplifted by the children’s reactions and their presentation of their patriotism,” expressed Marengo. “It was beautiful and you can see that they learned a lot here today.”

“It was very emotional and I was deeply touched by it, as a veteran, to be honored along with all of the other veterans at this special program,” revealed Solano.

Following this, all were treated to viewing ‘The Scavenger’, a documentary detailing the amazing story behind the veterans museum inside John Dormi & Sons Funeral Home.

Located on 1121 Morris Park Avenue, its lobby houses a room-sized museum showcasing many WWII military artifacts and became a focal point in teaching the students about history.

Staff members then presented Joseph Garofalo, curator and WWII veteran, a special item for the collection. Housed inside a mahogany, LED-lit display case was a katana once owned by a non-commissioned sergeant in the Imperial Japanese Army.

Not much is known about the samurai sword and its scabbard, but according to Garofalo and Angelo Pinto, a war historian and collector, it is believed the weapon was machine made, however its blade was probably handcrafted by a Japanese family, which was common practice. Pinto donated additional pieces including a WWII dynamite blasting machine, a cap, backpack, and a MP shoulder identification to the collection.

“I’m glad to be honored amongst other veterans and P.S. 108 does an excellent job every year,” expressed Garofalo. “The teachers and the students periodically visit our museum and we had three classes this year and hopefully will resume this again next year..”

Afterwards, the veterans gathered into an adjunct room to enjoy a catered lunch. The food was donated by the Patrizia’s of Woodlawn and its owner James Tierney, Michael’s brother. A beautiful patriotic cake was donated by Conti’s Pastry Shoppe.

“I get invited to this event every year, but this is my first time here,” revealed Sal Fasulo, Marine Corp Vietnam veteran. “I think what the teachers, staff, and children put on today for the veterans was absolutely marvelous. I am so proud to be a part of this event today and I hope this continues.”

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