The annual tradition honors senior students entering the military, military academies or college ROTC programs upon graduation.
With graduation day for the Lenape Regional High School District less than a month away, last night district officials continued the annual tradition of honoring senior students entering the military, military academies or college ROTC programs upon graduation.
The night marked the district’s Eighth Annual Armed Services Ceremony, in which staff, family, friends and active service members and veterans came together to wish the students well and impart advice for the future.
Speaking before the crowd, Superintendent Carol Birnbohm said that in addition to honoring active duty men and women and veterans now home, another purpose of the event was to help create a support system between those who have served and those seniors who will soon be serving.
“I’m going to give our veterans a little bit of a homework assignment. I want you to reach out to our soon-to-be graduates. I want you to make a connection with them, because only you are able to give that valuable insight for what is to come for them,” Birnbohm said.
Like most of the district’s graduates, Birnbohm said the students before her would soon be faced with the first time in their lives where they’ve left home for an extended period of time.
While Birnbohm said that would be a difficult adjustment for any student, these students had the added pressure of becoming part of something bigger than themselves.
“They’ll be representing their school, their community and, now, the United States of America. There will be a newfound responsibility and understanding that individual decisions now impact their unit, their institution and now our country,” Birnbohm said.
Delivering the night’s keynote address was U.S. Air Force Maj. Francis Devlin, who graduated from Shawnee High School in 2000 and was commissioned as an intelligence officer in 2004.
Devlin’s career includes three deployments to southwest Asia during Operation Enduring Freedom and one deployment with United States African Command support Operation Odyssey Dawn, and his awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Senior Intelligence Badge and Combat Systems Officer Badge.
As Devlin spoke to the students, he recalled his time participating in events sponsored by the history department at Shawnee where students could learn from local veterans of World War II.
Devlin said, as a young man, he was eager to hear about the veterans’ stories of battle and brave acts. Yet he also explained how many of the veterans would also focus on coming home and their experiences post service.
Devlin said only now was he beginning to understand why this was important to the veterans, as he believes, consciously or unconsciously, they wanted to pass on the idea that the ideals and disciplines they had learned in the military didn’t simply disappear once their service had concluded.
“These things didn’t just get put away with old uniforms and memorabilia and photographs — they were really rocks and the foundation to build a long life well lived. I’m more and more aware of that as time goes by, and I think if I had anything to pass along tonight, that to me is really the most important thing I would humbly impart,” Devlin said.
Students honored at this year’s Armed Services Ceremony included:
• Lenape High School students Sean Byrne, Ivaniel Morales, Selena Ramirez, Dylan Robertson and Connor Shields
• Cherokee High School students Ryan Bubnoski, Noah Chapman, Ryan Haines, Anthony Korobellis, Patrick Mahoney, Gregory Majka, Anastasia Rant, Dylan Shaw, Robert Thiel and Kevin Warchol
• Shawnee High School students Nicholas DiMona III, Jax Luzinski and Thomas Robinson
• Seneca High School students Jacob Alloway, Emily Briscoe, Evan Cajigas, Isaiah Gwaltney, Tyler Herman, Faith LaPointe, Gabriella Maynard, Nash Noecker, Dante Ogle and Regan Tarasewicz