P.S. 108 continues annual salute to local veterans

Police officer Melvin Hernandez, one of two honored veteran speakers, addresses P.S. 108 students on Friday, November 10.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

For the ninth year, a school in Morris Park has celebrated veterans in a big way.

P.S. 108 held its 9th Annual Veteran’s Day Celebration on Friday, November 10, inviting about three-dozen veterans to the school to honor their service and draw attention to their accomplishments.

The school’s former custodial engineer, Michael Tierney, founded the annual event with the support of the entire school community, and emceed it this year.

Honored veteran speakers who spoke to the students about their military service were Tony Salimbene and police officer Melvin Rodriguez of the 49th Precinct.

“We do this for those who served, but I always say that Veterans Day is for the guys who never came back,” said Salimbene.

Salimbene, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, said that the celebration was a prime example of how to have success in public education.

Rodriguez, a U.S. Army veteran, told the children that in the military he lost some friends and made others that he knew he could count on.

He told that children that he knew that there were future veterans in their group and that it was something they shouldn’t be afraid of.

Tierney said that he started the event several years ago because of an interest in World War II that went back to his childhood and as a project for a class he was taking in leadership.

“I was thinking how can I combine my job with my interest in World War II,” said Tierney, who added that at the time he believed that many of the students may not know a lot about World War II and that some veterans might have been forgotten.

“I really just wanted to show the veterans we have not forgotten them and at the same time show the students why we are free and have freedoms, and why we should be thankful,” Tierney said.

He hopes that students take away from the annual event that it is good to give back to the people who have sacrificed for us and that they realize that many countries don’t have the same kind of freedoms Americans enjoy.

Key to making the annual event a success in he beginning were Morris Park veteran Chris DiConstanzo and the late-Joseph Garofalo, a World War II veteran who founded the Bronx Veterans Museum housed at John Dormi and Sons Funeral Home.

This year’s event included the presentation of a flag by Theodore Korony American Legion Post #253, the viewing of Eric Spink’s short film featuring Garafalo called ‘The Scavenger,’ and student performances and readings.

Sal Fasulo, a Vietnam veteran from Spencer Estate who attended the event, said that he hoped the children would not forget what was discussed, and that they remember the history surrounding those who served.

Angelo Pinto, the current curator of the Bronx Veterans Museum, said that he tries to give a voice to the veterans of the past, and believes Garofalo, who founded the museum, would be proud of how the museum has flourished and how the popularity of the P.S. 108 event has grown.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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