The Marine Corps League has selected Herman Shanker as the 2009 honoree to receive the Lance/Corporal Stanley J. Kopcinski Memorial Award.
The league began this award in 1967 to honor the memory of the first Bayonne marine killed in combat in Vietnam on May 14, 1966. The Marines present the award each year following the Bayonne Memorial Day Parade. This will be the 43rd year that the award has been presented. The award is given to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the community.
Herman is a World War II veteran who served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946. He served in the Pacific Theater of operations as a pilot of a B-24 bomber. He was a member of the 90th Bomb Group, 319th Squadron.
Herman served in New Guinea, the Philippines, at Okinawa and finally at Ie Shima, which is the place where the surrendering Japanese Imperial Forces were flown to for the formal surrender ceremony marking the end of World War II.
During the War, Herman was shot down twice by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. He indicates that he was lucky to survive both of these crashes and didn’t fly again after the second one. Herman was drafted on his birthday on June 18, 1943 and this year he will celebrate his 95th birthday.
Herman has been the commander of Jewish War Veterans Post No. 18 of Bayonne continuously since 1998. He also serves as junior vice-commander of V.F.W. Post 226 of Bayonne.
He also serves as chaplain of the Bayonne Memorial Day Parade Committee, which is the umbrella organization for the 12 veterans’ posts in Bayonne. The committee meets monthly to plan the annual Memorial Day Parade, as well as Flag Day ceremonies and other special events. The veterans’ organizations of Bayonne work well together with the Parade Committee.
Herman is married to Esther Shanker. He has one daughter, Susan Beth Shanker, and one son, Stephen Shanker of Rochester, N.Y. He has four grandchildren, Stacey, Jody, Eric and Andrew, as well as two great-grandchildren, Brandon and Ethan.
Herman will be presented with the Lance/Corporal Stanley J. Kopcinski Memorial award at a ceremony to be held on Monday, May 25, at the V.F.W. Post 226 hall located at 16 West 9th St. in Bayonne at 3 p.m., following the annual Bayonne Memorial Day Parade. The public is invited to this annual ceremony.
Kopcinski was a courageous Marine
Lance Corporal Stanley John Kopcinski, for whom the award is named, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1964 after he graduated Bayonne Technical High School.
On May 14, 1966 at the age of 19, Kopcinski was killed in action by a command-detonated mine near Da Nang in South Vietnam, Quang Nam Province. He was the first Bayonne soldier to die on the battlefields of South Vietnam, according to the “Bayonne Times,” on May 17, 1966. He was the first of 30 Bayonne residents to perish in that conflict.
Called a quite boy, who worked part time as milkman before going to school. Kopcinski grew up in the 19th Street area, where he was very active in street sports such as stickball, basketball, touch football and more.
In service, he earned "most likely to receive the Medal of Honor" accolades by members of his unit, the famous First Battalion, First Marines (Guadalcanal, Chosin Reservoir), which was mounted out to be the first American combat unit sent to Vietnam.
Memorial Day Parade on Monday
The Bayonne Memorial Day Parade will take place this year on Monday, May 25. For the first time in the parade’s 91-year history, the parade committee has selected two females as co-grand marshals.
They are Victoria Del Regno and Isabella De Marco and both of them have much in common. They both served the country as members of the military. Victoria as a member of the United States Air Force, serving from January 1969 until November 1972, and Isabella as a member of the United States Army, serving from September 1993 until June 2004. She is still serving as an active duty reservist.
Another common factor is that both served as nurses and initially received a direct commission as a first lieutenant. Victoria was discharged as a captain while Isabella as a major.
In addition, both attended Bayonne grammar schools and graduated from Bayonne High School, and received bachelor’s degrees from New Jersey City University.
As part of their nursing careers, Victoria worked at Bayonne Hospital for 35 years and currently is the school nurse at Bayonne High School. Isabella worked at Bayonne Hospital for 18 years and at St. Michael’s Medical Center for the past 22 years, where she now serves as a staff nurse.
In the military, Victoria served during the Vietnam War and was stationed in Taiwan, China, where one of her responsibilities was to train corpsmen for duty in Vietnam. Isabella served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and at Eisenhower Medical Center located at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where she cared for veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), treating troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Another event in both of their lives was joining F.A. Mackenzie American Legion Post No. 165 in Bayonne. Victoria served as post commander in 1982, 2005 and 2006. Isabella joined in 2004 and served as commander in 2007, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, William F. Becker, since he too served as commander of the same post.
“The theme of the 2009 Bayonne Memorial Day Parade Committee is ‘Women in the Military,’ and both of these women are shining examples of the role of women in today’s military. They both have made significant contributions to our nation’s heritage both in and out of active military duty and urge all Bayonne residents to join them for this 91st annual parade,” said Barry Dugan, Hudson County’s director of veterans’ affairs.
The Bayonne Memorial Day Parade Committee is made up of the 12 veterans posts in the city. They have been responsible for running the annual Memorial Day Parade since 1918.