MANCHESTER – Manchester Township High School held its inaugural Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony.
“We’re going to be honoring our fallen service members who gave their lives in service to this country,” event organizer Dan Staples said. Staples is a math educator and president of the Manchester Township Education Association. “We’re promoting patriotism and also attempting to build camaraderie between the community and the schools, build that bond.”
School and government officials were joined by members of the public – many of them veterans – as well as juniors and seniors from the high school. Special guests included VFW Post 10061 Commander Joe Whelan and keynote speaker Earl Granville, a medically retired army veteran who gives inspirational talks based from his personal experience in combat and at home.
“Looking out here at our veterans, our military and our police, knowing how they make sacrifices to keep us safe, it’s easy to see why we should all be proud to be Americans today, and give them the recognition they’ve earned,” Superintendent David Trethaway said.
Manchester Township High School has lost three former students who served: Ronald Kubik, Nicholas Ott, and Matthew Zegan.
Kubik attended Manchester Township schools most of his life, until his family moved to Brielle. He graduated from Manasquan High School in 2006. He joined the Army in 2007 and ranked at U.S. Army Sergeant and Ranger. He served with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He died while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom on April 23, 2010 in Logar Province, Afghanistan, and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat.
Ott, a lifelong Manchester resident, joined the U.S. Marine Corps and rose to the rank of corporal. He served with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. He received a number of medals, including the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one Bronze Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with Two Bronze Stars, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal-ISAF, Rifle Marksman Badge and Pistol Marksman Badge. He also served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom and was killed during combat operations in Helmand Province on Aug. 10, 2011.
Zegan graduated Manchester Township High School in 1991. (He attended school with current high school principal Dennis Adams and Mayor Kenneth Palmer.) He joined the U.S. Army in 1993 and served with 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry of the 82nd Airborne Division, and was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was practicing drills on the ground when a mid-air accident caused the debris from an F-16 to fireball through the staging area, killing Zegan and 23 others. The accident is considered one of the worst peacetime losses of life suffered by that Division since World War II.
“Patriotism is more than just love and devotion for one’s country,” Manchester Police Captain Todd Malland said. “Patriotism is a feeling that inspires us. It’s a sentiment that fills our hearts with pride an optimism, and is an emotion that sometimes brings us to tears.”
He said one just needs to look around to see the “simple yet poignant” acts of patriotism: the men and women in the Armed Forces around the world, on standby and ready to “preserve and protect” freedom because they believe in what America stands for. The same inspires local law enforcement, he said.
Malland quoted Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” In the context of the passage, Jesus was speaking with his disciples and foreshadowing his coming crucifixion and resurrection. But Malland invoked it to point to how military and law enforcement members lay down their lives for others.
“They put their lives on the line nearly every day, as do those who are in authority on a local basis…which require themselves to protect others, even at the risk of losing their own lives,” Malland said.
Keynote speaker Earl Granville – he and Staples met at a Tough Mudder competition – joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard for the GI Bill tuition. He and his twin brother Joe went to Fort Benning, Georgia, for boot camp 10 days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attack in New York and Washington, D.C.
Granville just wanted the free ride through college, not the chance to see war. Going AWOL seemed appealing until Joe talked him down.
He served in Bosnia and after returning home and attending Lackawanna College for two semesters, volunteered to tour in Iraq with Joe. When opportunity opened its door to Afghanistan, Joe stayed behind to focus on his growing family. Granville went.
On June 3, 2008, Major Scott Hagerty took Granville’s seat in the vehicle they were driving in eastern Afghanistan. An IED tore through the vehicle. Hagerty and Specialist Derek Holland lost their lives. Granville lost his left leg.
Joe, carrying the guilt that he should have been there with his brother, took his life at Christmastime 2010.
Since that time, Granville has devoted himself to helping others and sharing the message that “It’s not about me, it’s about us.”
“Something that I learned really quick…you don’t need a uniform to serve….You don’t need a uniform to make a difference in people’s lives. You don’t need to go overseas to make a difference in your community and make sure people are safe here. Sometimes it’s right in your backyard. And I learned that during Operation Enduring Warrior (a nonprofit that helps wounded veterans), as I built this leadership moving forward, to mentor other people, I started doing it at home too, volunteering my time.” In between classes, he volunteered at a soup kitchen in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “It was great to be a part of something once again to make a difference, not just for myself, not just for Joe, but for all of us.”