Ridgewood students gathered in the school’s Campus Center Friday for the High School’s first Veteran’s Day breakfast, an event designed to pay tribute to those who served as well as learn from their experiences.
The school has always done something for Veteran’s Day, said social studies teacher John Domville, who in the past has brought classes to ceremonies marking the holiday. The school has also raised money for a different military-oriented charity each year. This time around they are working with the GI Go Fund, a nonprofit that assists veterans with the return to life back home.
But this year they wanted to add something different, says Principal Thomas Gorman, currently in his first year at the school. The idea of a veteran’s breakfast came from his last school district, and naturally, he brought the idea to Domville, who had been the most involved with past Veteran’s Day events.
“When I planted the seed with him, he just took it and ran,” Gorman said.
The decision was made to hold the breakfast Friday, rather than on the Monday observation of the holiday, so that more vets would be available. The school reached out to veteran’s groups, which in turn invited members, and students from a culinary class worked after school Wednesday and Thursday to prepare the food.
“It’s a great way for the school and students to show their respect and say thank you,” Gorman added.
The breakfast was followed by a larger student assembly featuring a panel of veterans, but the morning meal was an opportunity for less formal interactions between students and those being honored. “With the breakfast we could interact and socialize, so the students could talk to the veterans,” said Domville.
And so in addition to serving the food, riveted students gathered around tables in the school’s Campus Center to listen to vets recall some of their experiences. Matt Bombace, a Ridgewood resident who served twice in Iraq, recounted details of his time in the Marines and openly answered questions from a group of students. He said afterword that his goal was to help them understand the motivations of those who serve. “I hope they can get something out of it.”
Older vets told students about their time in Vietnam, capturing a human side of an era usually only available on paper and history class lectures. Gorman said that the idea was to bring students together not only give back to veterans, but also learn something about the past.
“It brings history alive—the stories in textbooks and the stories you hear about in class. These are the people that lived through it.”