John Massa choked up, with tears when he mentioned Korea.
Joseph Garofalo said he was amazed to be alive after fighting in World War II.
They and 17 other veterans from World War II to the 2008 War in Iraq were remembered by the children of PS 108 at the 4th annual Tribute to Veterans in honor of Veteran’s Day.
The veterans appeared before students on Friday, Nov. 9 in a packed cafeteria serving as an ad hoc museum, with vintage military posters hung about the room.
It also served as an interactive history lesson for students, who learned about the armed forces by hearing it straight from once-enlisted soldiers.
It was an idea lead organizer Michael Tierney, a staffer at the Morris Park school, had in mind four years ago.
“Wouldn’t it be great to show these vets that we care,” said Tierney, a WWII history buff, having read 200 books about the great war.
He started the project in 2009, seeking veterans in neighborhood coffee shops and veteran posts.
Joseph Garofalo was among 19 vets sharing war stories. The WWII vet served in a Navy construction battalion in the Pacific, including the Battle of Saipan.
To this day he’s still amazed he made it out in one piece. The 92-year-old knows the meaning of the word sacrifice, having the battle scars on his body to prove it. After all, he dodged death thirteen times while doing his part for his homeland.
“I was shot by snipers, I was bombed, I was machine-gunned, I was poisoned,” said Garofalo. “I shouldn’t even be here.”
Garofalo delivered the keynote speech, emphasizing the importance of thanking veterans “not just twice a year.”
He’s made it a point to remember the history of WWII by creating a Bronx Military Museum within Dormi & Sons Funeral Home in Morris Park, managed by fellow veteran Chris DiConstanzo.
The free museum features an array of military equipment on display. “I want people to know what we endured,” said Garofalo.
Korean War veteran John Massa spoke, breaking down in tears after uttering the word Korea before fourth and fifth grade students.
“Every time I mention the war Korea I get emotional,” said Massa, struggling to find composure.
David Cruz can be reached via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383