Lazar Middle Honors Veterans
Plaque dedicated to alumni that have served in the military:"We thank you for keeping us safe and are proud to walk the same halls as you once did."
In honor of Veterans Day, Robert R. Lazar Middle School dedicated a plaque honoring all Lazar alumni who are veterans on Thursday morning.
For two years, eighth grade Social Studies teacher, Rick Crescente, has grappled with the problem of how to make Veteran's Day meaningful to 13 and 14-year-olds. Then one day a few weeks ago, standing outside of Lazar Middle School, he saw the answer.
"One of my former students was standing outside the building," said Crescente. "Until I saw him, I honestly had not thought about him in four years. He said he was leaving the next day for the military, and I thought, 'That's it. Let's honor veterans who graduated from Lazar.'"
The ceremony and dedication were coordinated by Crescente, Vice Principal, Joe Keiser, and the eighth grade students of Lazar Middle School.
Principal John Gallucci noted that the plaque not only honors Lazar veteran's, but all veterans of the United States.
Students, Claire Sullivan, Nicole Philip and Allison Kayne, thanked all those who helped to make the event possible and extended a special thanks to "our amazing VFW and Joe Quade… [America is] the land of the free and the home of the brave. Without you we would not even be here."
"We will pass by this plaque every day, and it will remind us that they [veterans] are out there, fighting for us." Crescente said.
Student, Paige Hammell, competed with other eighth graders for the honor of presenting a speech at the ceremony.
"A life is a most valuable thing," she said. "And these soldiers gave up their lives for something greater than themselves, their country … Imagine giving up your family, your friends, your house, your life, for your country … The least we can do is mount a plaque on a rock forever commemorating them."
Gunny Sergeant Mark Peer, a 1987 graduate of Lazar Middle School, and a 17-year veteran Marine, currently stationed at Picatinny Arsenal, was joined by the Montville VFW Post 5481 in assisting with the uncovering of the monument.
"Thank you for this monument," he said. "It is beautiful, it is wonderful, it is great. I can't say enough about it. I am speaking for myself and all other veterans, when I say how great this is."
Peer continued by encouraging students to "walk up to any veteran, of any age, and shake hands and say thank you. You cannot know how much that means to every veteran."
Following the ceremony, eighth grader, Alyssa Olimpio said, "It was a very touching ceremony. It made me realize how much we should respect veterans."
Her classmate, Adam Wolfson, agreed. "I think it went well. I learned a lot about veterans. It was very memorable. I have had experiences that will stay in my mind forever. I am proud to have been a part of it."
Veteran Joe Quade of the Montville VFW was impressed by the efforts of the Lazar students on behalf of the veterans.
"It was certainly refreshing to see that the young people here in Montville appreciate what the veterans have done in the military," Quade said. "It is not often that young people express those thoughts and appreciation for those who served in the military."
"Today's Veteran's Day ceremony is not the end of the veteran's project at Lazar Middle School," said Crescente. "The school has been around since the 1950's. A lot of people have gone to school here. We are going to continue. We want to find as many graduates who are veterans as we can. We want to make a list so we will know who these veterans are. This is only the start of our Veteran's Day project."
Cresente asks anyone with information, about Lazar graduates who are veterans , to please call Lazar Middle School at 973-331-7140, or e-mail him.