On May 15 in the Lenape High School auditorium, district officials continued the annual tradition of honoring students entering the military, military academies or college ROTC programs upon graduation.
The event marked the 10th Annual Armed Services Awards Ceremony, in which staff, family, friends and active service members and veterans came together to wish the students well and to provide them with advice in their future endeavors.
“It’s truly a pleasure to have the opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments. Your service and sacrifice, and that of your families, are the main reasons for us to take time tonight to reward and recognize you,” said Assistant Superintendent Matthew Webb during his speech to the honorees.
Before Webb’s speech, he and the crowd took a moment of silence for Nicholas DiMona, a 2017 Shawnee graduate and Medford Lakes resident who lost his life in an Army training accident earlier this year.
In addition to honoring students, the ceremony also recognized veterans who are alumni, staff or relatives of current students. Among those veterans were Frank Fatale and Frank Di Gesu, who both served in World War II. Students had the opportunity to connect with veterans after the ceremony over food and refreshments in the cafeteria.
Shawnee High School 2013 alumnus Jonathan Dennler, a midshipman in the U.S. Navy, hosted the event and introduced the keynote speaker, Robert E. Smyth. As a Shawnee alumnus, Smyth is currently president of the Premium Care Group, providing home health care for veterans, seniors and their families. He is a former executive, military officer, elected official and consultant. During the Vietnam War, he served as a captain in the U.S Army and received campaign/commendation medals.
Smyth took the stage to reflect on his time in a war zone, then offered advice and gratitude to the young men and women who will soon serve after graduation.
“A veteran and those serving always focus on the mission, the goals, the objectives and the results,” said Smyth.
Students honored at this year’s Armed Services Awards Ceremony are as follows:
- Lenape High School students Daniel DeSantis, Harry Everham, Tyler Huynh, Thomas Palovcak, Brandon Rice, Alex Steinberg, Kaila Trouts and Xavier Walter.
- Shawnee High School students Michael Blackwell, Aditya Deshmukh, Sean Riley, and Marc Voorhees.
- Cherokee High School students Brian Hysler, Gwendolyn Kline-Daley, Tyler Lanza, Gary Nofer, Shane Silver, Maximus Voiro and Jacob Witham.
- Seneca High School students Dennis Bartholomew, William Hess, Connor Mau, Jackson Pirozzi, Vincent Riccardi and Jonah Worrell.
Alumni, parent and employee honorees were Jason Bichler, George Blackwell, Susan Burns, Frank Di Gesu, Gary Di Gesu, Anataelle Dimanche, Frank Fatale, Michael Graham, Raymond Kennedy, Pat McDonald, Jason Rice, Jim Stewart, Jeff Voorhees and Kimberly Washington.
“I’ve always been dedicated to joining the military, and I just knew it was always something I wanted to do. So I always just wanted to serve my country somehow whether it be a doctor, nurse, lawyer, but I always felt like serving the country for the freedom was always the best option for me,” said Trouts, whose military family inspired her to join.