Gallo was one of a slew of veterans who received awards at a ceremony at Emerson High School in Union City last week, four days before Veterans Day.
The assembly was held on Wednesday, Nov. 7 due to Veterans Day falling on a Sunday this year.
The event was hosted by the school's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (JROTC) and its coordinator, Gunnery Sergeant Caonabo Reyes.
Veterans from all over Hudson County and Bergen County arrived, representing their corresponding divisions and merits. Amongst the vets were Emerson graduate George Robbiani (born and raised in Union City) along with fellow Union City native Enzo Neri.
The servicemen and women were introduced by JROTC cadets and were led to the stage, where administrators praised them for their past efforts.
Also in attendance was guest of honor Carmine Varano, a well-decorated World War II veteran from Hudson County.
Students were eager to cheer on the vets and support them.
Thalia Hernandez, a 17 year-old senior of Emerson said she felt proud.
"I didn't know someone from Pearl Harbor was [going to be] here," she said in regard to U.S. Marine Robert Stockum, who was present in Hawaii for the pre-WWII attack in 1941. "It's an honor to have them come to our school and have us show them our respect."
The veterans signified different facets of the U.S. military including Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. They all served during different global conflicts ranging from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Pearl Harbor attack.
Superintendent of Schools Stanley Sanger was also there to participate and honor the veterans whom attended. "It's a great experience to see young people of today take the time to recognize the many people [that] allow freedoms in the U.S. that we sometimes take for granted," he said.
Graduate with honors
World War II veteran Charles Gallo describes his career in the service with an admirable lightheartedness.
"I volunteered for the selective service in the Navy," he said, because "most of my friends were in the service too - mostly the Army."
Gallo was born in Hoboken and lived in Union City for 20 years.
During World War II, Gallo was drafted before he had a chance to complete his high-school education and never received his high-school diploma.
That was up until the school decided to award Charles Gallo with an honorary diploma signifying his completion of studies at Emerson High School during the assembly.
Gallo was thankful to Superintendent Sanger who awarded him the diploma, and made a special thanks to Sgt. Reyes.
"It's thanks to him," he said.
Upon being awarded his diploma and some era-specific Emerson memorabilia, Gallo joked that, "My wife says now I can go get a job!"
Emerson students expressed their pride in partaking of such a grand event.
Janeisy Miranda, an 18-year-old senior, commented that the assembly was interesting to her, adding that it was "amazing he never got a diploma."
She added, "He must have been excited since he didn't get to finish. It makes me prouder [to be a student here]. It dates the school back to an old time in history."
Gallo's daughter choked up as she described what the celebration meant for her.
"[This] is an honor. I'm so proud of my dad," she said, "I start tearing up just thinking about it."
Guest of honor
This year, Carmine Varano attended the Veterans Day assembly meeting as the school's guest of honor.
Varano, who was initially born in New York City and moved to Union City when he was 6 years old, lived there for 30 years before finally moving to Jersey City.
As an Emerson graduate, he later studied at Rutgers University but only spent two years there until he was called to duty.
From 1943 to 1946, he served as an Army Combat Medic with the 411th Regiment, Company E of the 103rd Infantry Division.
Varano recalled that throughout his whole career, he's never had "such an undertaking with a group of vets like this," also noting that the day gave him a "great feeling."
According to Varano's research, he may be the most decorated WWII veteran in Hudson County. Most notably, Varano has been awarded two Silver Stars (although in one of his medals, the Oakleaf cluster, is said to represent a second bestowal of honor), and a Purple Heart, among others.
For a more in depth look at Varano, an advanced search on www.thehudsonreporter.com will yield Ricardo Kaulessar's Sept. 7 story titled "War Memories on TV" in The Jersey City Reporter.
For comments on this story, e-mail NMillan@hudsonreporter.com.
JROTC, find out what it means to me
Emerson High School's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp program is a very unique course employed in the school.
Led by highly honored and Gulf War veteran Gunnery Sergeant Caonabo Reyes, the JROTC is a leadership education program in which students partake in community service, career exploration, and general military subjects. The four-year elective course is currently celebrating its 11th year in the school and has shown positive results.
Assistant Principal Daniel Frezo also describes the JROTC as being part of Emerson's ongoing efforts to implement "character education" in all curriculums and student organizations.
According to him, the JROTC is a "very strong component of character education." He cited examples where cadets contribute to such activities as helping with Thanksgiving Day festivities, food drivers, clothing drives, a "hugely successful" toy drive, and the assembly.
Indeed, the day of the assembly, young cadets were never seen idle, as someone is seemingly always doing something.
As Frezo noted, the spectacle was an instance where the "students [would] demonstrate, in a respective manner, the importance of this occasion and character education." - NM