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WWII veterans among those honored on MCVTS East Brunswick Campus

WWII veterans among those honored on MCVTS East Brunswick Campus

Veterans of the armed forces were honored Nov. 19 at a luncheon on the East Brunswick Campus of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools.

Veterans of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps – many of them related to MCVTS students or staff – enjoyed a meal prepared by culinary and baking students.

Among the guests of honor were two World War II veterans, 97-year-old Gordon Ekstrand and 95-year-old Thomas Mercadante, both Army veterans.

Louis Meagher-DiEllo, an East Brunswick Tech sophomore arts technology major from Milltown, told how his great-great-uncle, Ekstrand, participated in the liberation from the Nazis of Pilsen, a city in Czechoslovakia. Ekstrand said he had returned to Pilsen several times, including for a parade honoring the liberators in 1991.

Louis’ mother, Jennifer Meagher-DiEllo, teaches English at East Brunswick Tech, and Mercadante’s son, Stephen, teaches pre-engineering and advanced manufacturing.    

Four of those honored were employees of the school district: Director of Career and Technical Education Sean McDonald, who was in the Navy Seabees; building trades teacher Brien Wiseman, also a Seabee; and Army veterans Jeff Staples, a physical education teacher, and Christie Alston, who teaches biology and who coordinated the event as adviser to the student council. One of the Army veterans was East Brunswick Police Officer Mike Smith.

“Please continue to share your stories with the younger generation,” Alston said to the veterans. “We need your stories.”

“We hope to make this an annual event,” said Michael Cappiello, East Brunswick Campus principal. Robert Feldman, principal of the MCVTS School of Career Development, said the district was “honored and privileged” to welcome the veterans.

Also attending were Middlesex County Executive Superintendent of Schools Kyle Anderson, MCVTS Board of Education President Keith Jones II, MCVTS Superintendent of Schools Dianne Veilleux and Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Bicsko.

Alston said students initiated the plan for the event and she had “amazing support” from the school staff and district administration. Thirteen career-major shops contributed, including pre-engineering and machine-tool technology, which collaborated to make commemorative coins for the veterans.

VFW Post 25 of Milltown provided the flags of the various branches of the armed forces, and an honor guard from the Army recruiting station in East Brunswick – Staff Sgt. William Boyle, Staff Sgt. Rafael Pena and Sgt. Michael Kechula – presented the colors.

The national anthem was sung by sophomore music majors Sarah Mendez-Perez of Carteret and Jada Pagan of South Amboy.

Alyssa Callan, a senior architecture major from North Brunswick who is president of the student council, introduced a number of students who performed patriotic and inspirational poems, letters and speeches, including sophomore Teddy Lenahan of South Amboy, sophomore Elizabeth Saucier of Edison, sophomore Cheyenne Busch of Helmetta, junior Ashley Rolon of Carteret, junior Kimberly Gonzalez of Perth Amboy, and junior Lizbeth De Los Santos of Perth Amboy.