Stafford High School honors veterans

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Thu., Nov. 14, 2013
Air Force analyst Gerardi LaMonte, Senior Airman John Hurchala and Navy Electrician Mate E4 Third Class Michael Pacholski volunteered to talk to students at Stafford High School about their service experiences. Photos by Lisa Stone.
Air Force analyst Gerardi LaMonte, Senior Airman John Hurchala and Navy Electrician Mate E4 Third Class Michael Pacholski volunteered to talk to students at Stafford High School about their service experiences. Photos by Lisa Stone.

Stafford High School welcomed active-duty and non-active military personnel to an assembly on Nov. 8, to show appreciation for all the veterans have done to keep the country free. The pre-Veterans Day event included a social hour, a formal ceremony to offer thanks to all the veterans of the area, as well as those that have passed in conflict, and finally a meet-and-greet between the veterans and the students in a classroom setting.

Principal Marco Pelliccia was very pleased to host the veterans. "A lot of veterans don't get the recognition they deserve," said Pelliccia. "This is a great opportunity to show just how much their service is truly appreciated. Today, students will have the opportunity to meet several veterans that have served to preserve our freedom. The vets are assigned to specific classrooms and the students will have the ability to ask them questions about their time in the service."

"This is truly a wonderful way to honor our veterans," said State Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R-35). "This is a long time coming. We need to do more to show our vets just how important their service to our country really is. I am extremely proud of the kids. They are very respectful to the vets. Today, we have the honor of meeting a real hero, Darrell Star. Mr. Star was a POW in the Philippines. It is people like that that really make us proud."

Star remembered his days as a POW. "I was taken in the Philippines after fighting for four months," said Star. "We were surrendered by General King. We ran out of ammunition, so he felt that was the best move." Approximately 20,000 troops were surrendered, according to Star. The soldiers walked the Death March, and many died of illnesses such as malaria. "We buried upwards of 30 soldiers a day," said Star. "I would have been one of those soldiers if it weren't for a soldier that I never even knew his name. I was so sick with malaria that I was on death's door. The soldier snuck me some quinine, and that is what got rid of the malaria. For all I know, he gave me the quinine that he needed to live. I owe him my life." Star was taken from the Philippines and eventually moved to Japan. He was in Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped. "The bomb killed millions of people, but it saved many millions more," said Star. "The bomb is what made Japan finally end the war. If we had to go on their soil, millions more lives would have been lost, both Japanese and American."

Star's parents were migrant workers, so he didn't know where they were living when he was liberated. The Red Cross found his parents and reunited them. "My parents were living in California at the time I was liberated. When the Red Cross set up a phone call between me and my mother, it was the first time that I had ever talked to her on the phone. It was 1945 and that was the first time I had spoken to my parents in five years. At that time, I was only 98 pounds and in desperate need of medical attention. After spending time in the hospital, I was released with an extra 50 pounds on my bones."

Shortly after leaving the hospital, Star met his wife, Julia. They dated for a brief period and began the rest of their lives together as man and wife. They will be married for 67 years this Christmas. "I have had a wonderful life. We had three children that are a great success and several grandchildren that are truly wonderful people. Even though I only made it through the eighth grade, I was able to find work and support my family. I use my hardships to help me to appreciate life everyday. I have post traumatic stress disorder, but I help others to deal with their PTSD. I am 91 years old and I have had a great life," said Star.

SHS student Connor Hutchins, Jr., was glad to see that so many people care about the veterans. "My dad is a vet," Hutchins said. "It's great to see that the school is doing something to celebrate our veterans other than just taking the day off from school."


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