Vets honored at Joliet Central
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org November 9, 2012 9:50PM
PFC Chloe Cole, 17, (left), a senior in J.R.O.T.C. and combat medic in the Army, talks with Lockport resident Joe Rende (right), a combat engineer in the Army from 1957-1959, at the conclusion of the Joliet Central Veterans Ceremony at Joliet Central High School Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at 201 E. Jefferson St. in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 12, 2012 6:43AM
JOLIET — ROTC member Chloe Cole’s video presentation stirred emotions Friday, featuring scenes of veterans serving in World War II and the decades afterward.
Cole, a senior at Joliet Central High School, showed her video Friday at a veterans ceremony in the Central auditorium. A quote from author and poet G.K. Chesterton had several audience members in tears — “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
“My video was a dedication to every member of the service, in years past and still serving,” Cole said after the assembly. “I’m just very happy to be an American and hopefully that shows.”
On Friday, the high school welcomed veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The veterans sat in front and were honored individually before an audience that included cheering students.
The ceremony was led by Principal John Randich and retired Army Major Philip Jayko, who is senior Army instructor at Joliet Township High. Terry Piazza, a history teacher at Central, gave the introductory speech, honoring veterans for their service.
Lynne Lichtenauer, the school’s director of alumni relations and development, then read the achievements of veterans with ties to Joliet Township High School. Here is a partial list:
Edward Brown enlisted in World War II when he was 22. He attained the rank of staff sergeant and served in the South Pacific from 1942 to 1946.
Norman Glen served in World War II with the Army and was a private first class with the 88th Infantry Division, 5th Army. He was in heavy mortar and saw combat from Naples, Italy, to the Brenner Pass in Austria.
Chris Dragatsis, Class of 1948, and a member of the high school alumni association board of directors, served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954. He was a first lieutenant and the company commander of a tank division.
Weems McCullum was a staff sergeant in the 2nd Infantry Division. He served in Korea after being drafted in 1950. Two of his brothers also served in the Korean War.
James E. Clausen, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Cantigny Post 367, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk.
James Downey, Class of 1962, served in the Air Force at several bases, including the Tan Son Hnut Air Base in Vietnam from June 1965 to July 1966. He served four years of active duty and 25 years in the reserves. He served in Desert Shield/Storm and did two tours of duty in Bosnia.
Felipe (Phil) Garcia, a Cold War veteran, served in the Army in the late 1950s as a private first class stationed in Bordeaux, France. He writes veterans articles for The Herald-News.
Ken Gill, a Cold War veteran and retired Central teacher, was drafted into the Army in 1971 and served two years of active duty. He was a military policeman stationed in West Germany.
Army Cpl. Adam Juarez, Joliet West Class of 2009, is stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., where he’s an infantry mortar man and has spent one year in Afghanistan. He will be deployed back to Afghanistan in March.
Army Sgt. Sarah Kelley, Joliet West Class of 1997, is stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. Kelley has been on active duty since 2005. She has been deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Infantry Division.
Last year, Cole dedicated her video to her grandfather, Jim Ward, a sergeant and combat engineer who served in Vietnam. This year, she dedicated it to John Rende, Class of 1945, a veteran of World War II.
Rende left Joliet Township High School in his senior year when he was drafted into the Army. He carried the ranks of first class anti-tank gunner and battalion supply sergeant. He saw heavy combat in LeHarve, France; Belgium and Austria. Rende served in the 65th Infantry Division and in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army. He received the Bronze Star.
“He really inspires me,” Cole said. “Selfless people like him are why I do what I do.”