Bronx veterans were honored and remembered with a special performance from students at P.S. 108’s annual Veterans Day Celebration held on Friday, November 8.
About 120 fourth- and fifth-graders filled the cafeteria singing patriotic songs paying tribute to members of the Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and Army, followed by a documentary remembering the late Bronx veteran, Joseph Garafolo and a special luncheon, organized by the school’s Veterans Day Committee.
The annual celebration has been held at the school, located at 1166 Neil Avenue, for the past 11 years, educating students about the importance of Veterans Day, according to Mike Tierney, custodian engineer and coordinator of the project.
“It’s extremely valuable to teach the younger generation why we have the freedoms we have and to be thankful and to make sure we show it and say ‘thank you,’” Tierney said.
Garafolo an active and devoted American Legion member and Morris Park resident since the early 1950s, who passed away in March 2016, was recognized for his mission to establish the Bronx Veterans Museum chronicled in the Erik Spink-directed documentary, ‘The Scavenger’ which is shown every year at P.S. 108’s Veterans Day Celebration.
Garafolo’s donated artifacts—weapons, hats, jackets, badges, comics, pictures, book and documents—from World War II is housed in the lobby of Dormi and Sons Funeral Home, located at 1121 Morris Park Avenue.
“It’s a great place for the kids to come and see history and touch it with their hands,” Tierney said. “You get a true sense of history and the fifth-graders go on field trips every year for the event, which culminates here today with the celebration.”
It’s a heartwarming tribute for the veterans, who say they’re humbly honored and appreciative of the school community hosting the celebration.
“In my day, when we got out we didn’t have this kind of stuff. They didn’t treat us like this,” said Michael Maskara, 77, a Bronx veteran, who served in the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1966. “It’s something special for us. These kids today know what this is all about and what we’re in for.”
Efrain Gonzalez III, who served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1992 in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, described the program as beautiful and educational.
“It’s something that a lot of young children don’t know about — what it is to be a veteran and what it entails,” Gonzalez said. “It wasn’t easy for everyone who fought in war, some people handled it better than others and we’re only human and that’s something that a lot of people here may not know.”
For Kiersten Carter, who served in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015, it was a special occasion to spend with her 5-year-old son, who is a kindergarten student at P.S. 108.
“There’s a lot of respect for the military here,” Carter said.
Handwritten letters from students were displayed on each luncheon table, expressing their gratitude to all veterans.
“Thank you for honoring our country, and thank you for all that you’ve done. You are very considerate and brave,” said fifth-grade student, Amaya Sanchez, in her letter.