BY KATHY CHANG
MONROE — A sense of honor mixed with feelings of overwhelming excitement exuded from more than 60 students of the Monroe Township High School March Band who were preparing to be ambassadors for the state and the veterans of the USS New Jersey on Dec. 7, which marks the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
The Monroe Township Music Parents Association organized a sendoff event at the Monroe Township High School’s (MTHS) Performing Arts Center on Dec. 3.
The sendoff included members of the American Legion Post 522 of Monroe Township presenting the colors. The MTHS Choir, directed by Arielle Klein, sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The students, along with some parents and Band Director Martin Griffin and Assistant Band Director Alfred Hadinger, left for Hawaii on Dec. 5 and will return on Dec. 10.
The marching band and color guard, the only marching band and color guard from New Jersey to earn an invite, were chosen by the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade Committee for the honor of performing in the parade on Dec. 7.
“We learned through an email that was sent out last winter,” said Mitchell, a senior at (MTHS) and a drum major in the band.
Mitchell said it is quite an honor to be chosen for a chance to perform in the parade for the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Alexa, a junior and a drum major in the band, agreed. She said it is a huge honor.
“It is so overwhelming. … There are so many different school bands and to be selected to represent the veterans of USS New Jersey – my grandfather served on the USS New Jersey during the Korean War – so in part I’m representing him and everyone else,” she said.
Griffin said without the support from the Monroe Township Music Parents Association, the band wouldn’t be able to do the many things that it does.
He said it all started in 2003, when the MTHS Marching Band performed in Disney World for the first time.
“It was a big deal back then for the school,” he said, adding that they have since been back to Florida on three additional occasions. “In 2013, we were named state National Champions.”
Then, in 2015, Griffin said they accepted the invitation to Pearl Harbor, which has been the most significant honor as they look forward to representing the state.
Hadinger said the students work hard from the very first band practice on Aug. 2.
He said the most powerful experience students can have is outside the classroom that cannot be reflected inside the classroom.
On the trip to Hawaii, Hadinger said not only will the hard work of the students be reflected as they perform, but they will get to experience history that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Hadinger said it is important to recognize all the veterans and what an incredible honor it is for the band students.
He noted that both his grandfathers were World War II veterans. As he was growing up, he said his grandfathers didn’t speak much about their time in the service.
“It was an expectation for them. … They both understood the importance [of serving],” Hadinger said.
State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex), Schools Superintendent Michael Kozak, Assistant Schools Superintendent Dori Alvich and Monroe Township Mayor Gerald Tamburro conveyed their well wishes to the students and faculty on the trip.
Tamburro presented the students with T-shirts so everyone will know they are from Monroe Township.
Ken Kersch, a veteran of the USS New Jersey and a retired South Brunswick police officer, provided details of the USS New Jersey (BB-62), which was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the state of New Jersey.
USS New Jersey began services in 1944 and decommissioned in 1991. It is docked in Camden and now serves as a museum.
He said the ship had all the amenities/services as a city.
“We had a hospital, a dentist, post office, a store, a snack bar [and more],” said Kersch.
Nicholas Ferrarotto, commander of American Legion Post 522, said before Dec. 7, 1941, people had no idea what and/or where Pearl Harbor was.
“Seventy-five years later, most of the witnesses of that fateful day are no longer here, but their legacy remains,” he said.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, by the Japanese killed more than 2,000 American soldiers and sailors and wounded another 1,000.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the day “a date which will live in infamy.”
During the sendoff event, people were encouraged to write thank you cards for veterans, which will be distributed to local veterans.
Contact Kathy Chang at email@example.com.