VIDEOS/PHOTOS: The Fourth Annual BHS Veterans Day Ceremony 2017 Included NJROTC Alumni Sgt. Battocchio of the Marine Corps

Report by Paula Antolini
November 13, 2017 6:00PM EDT



Photo: (Left to right) Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker, Sgt. Battacchio, Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells, and Bethel High School Principal Christopher Troetti at the Fourth Annual BHS Veterans Day Ceremony 2017, on November 10, 2017.


VIDEOS/PHOTOS: The Fourth Annual BHS Veterans Day Ceremony 2017 Included NJROTC Alumni Sgt. Battocchio of the Marine Corps

The Bethel High School (BHS) gym was packed with military personnel and their families, school and town officials, and BHS students for the Fourth Annual Bethel High School Veterans Day Ceremony, organized by the BHS NJROTC under Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells, which took place on Friday, November 10, 2017, and began at approximately 9:15 a.m.  A veterans reception was held earlier at 8:45 in the ROTC room.

The Veterans Day Ceremony included a guest speaker, an Alumni 2008 Cadet Commander, now introduced to the audience by Lt. Commander Dwinells, as Sgt. Kirsten Battocchio of the Marine Corps. She has served in the marines in many locations around the world.

Lt. Commander Dwinells said, “Our guest speaker today is a United States Marine Sergeant, Once a Marine Always a Marine.  She served as an Embassy Security Guard, in dangerous places overseas including Uganda and Sri Lanka. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, she served our nation.  She’s now serving as the President of Manhattan College Veterans Association.  Over the summer she Interned for United States Senator Blumenthal in our nation’s capitol.  Last month she had dinner with former President Bush. Tomorrow morning she’s having breakfast with Mayor DeBlasio in New York City. But most importantly she is here with us today.” 

The focus of Battocchio’s speech was “mutual respect for one another.”

Battocchio said, “What I learned is that mutual respect can be built between anyone as long as there are two key factors.  The first is communication.  When it came to my marines I had to prove that I was credible and that they could trust my thought process. Therefore every time I gave an order or a task, I explained why.” 

Battocchio continued, “I found it was important to explain what the purpose of the task was.  What was the end state for the end goal.  Communicating the purpose was critical for two reasons.  One, they learned that they could trust me and trust the way I thought.  Communication built by credibility and that instilled the loyalty between us.  After a while I was able to issue orders without explanation because they knew there was a purpose.”

“Two, communicating a purpose was critical, because in addition to instilling loyalty it taught my marines how to think through difficult decisions on their own,” Battocchio said, “That was what any good leader wants.  You always want those below you to know how to carry out the mission in your absence because when your entire team is capable of leading you form a stronger unit.”

“If communication is the first key factor in building mutual respect, the second is undoubtedly empathy,” Battocchio said. “Empathy by definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  Knowing how to communicate and focusing on the purpose is important in relaying the information you want to share but empathy is the willingness to find a common ground between two people.   And there’s always, always, always common ground to be found.”

Cadet Christiana Ruiz was the Master of Ceremonies, a BHS senior who was just accepted to The United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, NY and the United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, MD.

Serving as the adjutant was Cadet Mark Nelson.  The adjutant is the military officer who has been delegated the authority of the Commanding Officer to organize and lead the military formations.  He was carrying an authentic Naval Officer’s Sword as a symbol of the authority of office.

The parading of the colors was by the NJROTC Color Guard and Honor Guard.  The Color Guard was commanded by Cadet Vitoria Vieira carrying the stars and stripes, Cadet Giulia Conceicao carrying the Bethel NJROTC flag with streamers, indicating their continuous status as a Navy Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors each year since their inception in 2002.  The Rifle Bearers guarding our national emblem were Cadets Jonathan Eaton and Rheanna Flores.

Ruiz said, “Our veterans served so that we may live in a free and orderly society. We demonstrate our appreciation for their service through acts of respect for constituted authority, that is, respect for our teachers, our administrators, our elected officials, our police officer and other pubic service officials.”

The arrival of the official party included Bethel Public Schools and Town of Bethel officials, and veterans from each branch of the armed services, Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force, who entered the room under swords held high by the BHS NJROTC cadets.

A patriotic musical tribute, that included the National Anthem, was performed by a full BHS orchestra, band and choir, under the direction of Mr. Damon Coachman, Mr. Richard Baumer and Ms. Karen Neville.

Ruiz said, “Veterans Day is the day we pay tribute to all military veterans. Whether they served in Peace or War, in the United States of far away war zones, all those who have served honorably are respected as veterans. This is not the same as Memorial Day when we pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in defense of freedom. Veterans Day is a day of celebration an national pride.”

The BHS Orchestra and Choir performed a “Tribute to the Armed Services” as the honored veterans entered the room.




ARMY: Bob Germinaro, Dave Belcourt, Cpt. Noel, Mr. Louis Voros

MARINE CORPS: MSgt. Meehan, SSgt. Harmon, SSgt. Gee, Cpl. Korin, Rich Godfrey, Mr. Eric Sprock, Cpl. Marsili, Mr. Francis Storm

NAVY: LCDR Dwinells, Charles Weeks, Mr. Morton, Mr. Trinklein, Mr.Doolan, Captain Durand, Mr. Jim Czell, Mr. Frank Lawrence

COAST GUARD: Chief Morris, Hunter Sprock

AIR FORCE: Mr. Martin Sprock, Mary Beth Falls, Mr. Richard Samuelson, Mr. Roger Bellamy

VIP OFFICIALS: Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker, Selectman Richard Straiton, Selectman Paul Szatkowski, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Carver, Board of Education Chairman Lawrence Craybas, and Bethel High School Principal Christoper Troetti.


Teachers and Staff who are veterans were also recognized:

Mr. Trinklein, served in the United States Navy

Mr. Doolan, served in the United States Navy

Mr. Belcourt, of the custodial staff, served in the United States Army

Master Sgt. Meehan, Once a Marine, Always a Marine!



Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said, “It is certainly a privilege to welcome our veterans to this wonderful ceremony and welcome our high school community.  It is a real testament to this school that we are all here in this room to honor those individuals who have served our country so well.” 

“Just couple of days ago we had a very remarkable event, although we live so well in our country that most people miss the fact that it’s so remarkable, and that of course is, we had an election,”  Knickerbocker said. “If you think of Mr. Owen’s class  you may know that self rule is actually rare in human history in recent civilization. It has not been done very well.  The United States of America is an exception to that history for over 247 years and we’ve been practicing it and refining it, and we’ve relied o the men and women of the military to protect that right to vote.   It’s something that we cherish an it’s something that we cannot take for granted.  So I’m here on behalf of my colleagues, Mr. Straiton and Mr. Szatkowski, and all of the people of Bethel to thank them, and to join you in honoring their service.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Carver said,  “I had the privilege of participating in the Johnson School Veteran’s Day Ceremony yesterday.”  She mentioned that Lieutenant Colonel Smith, a Tactical Warfare Officer, addressed the 4th and 5th graders that day, and that the take away was poignant for today’s ceremony.  Smith spoke about the origin of Veterans Day, which started after WWI, “the war to end all wars” only he took a different perspective, Carver said, “The belief that we are never going to be at war and the values that we hold as a country, our democracy, are founded on the work that our veterans do. And it’s an honor for me to recognize for all that serve because, although this saying has been said frequently, freedom is not free, and I just want to thank you, all of our veterans and their families who support them n the work that they do to protect our country.”

Bethel High School Principal Christoper Troetti thanked the veterans and said they deserve a standing ovation for all the work they do to support our country [long applause as veterans stood].  “We’re here today to honor these people [points to veterans] because they fought for our right to be able to live our lives the way we want to live them, to be able to stand up for what we believe in.  Without them, somebody else would be making the decisions for us, and they could be making the decisions for us.  So that being said, I just want to say thank you to all of you.”   Mr. Troetti then asked all those veterans who graduated from Bethel High School or served in the military on some way, or are presently serving, to stand and be recognized. View photo here:


Click on photo above to view larger.

“Thank you for all your support and making the ultimate sacrifice for out nation,” Troetti said to the veterans.



Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells is a member of the Bethel High School Class of 1980 and served for over 21 years in the United States Navy, including nearly 9 years at sea and 5 years overseas.

Lt. Commander Dwinells’ focus was on sacrifices, freedom and diversity.  He said, “I would like to take this opportunity to challenge you to think about your lives in America.  How will you live your life in a way that is worthy of the sacrifices of our veterans.  In our country today we have some challenges, as we always have.  I believe that people who are grateful for their freedom and truly understand how they got that freedom, will be less likely to treat other people unfairly or with disrespect.  Showing respect for veterans is just a start, after that, we must show respect for each other and the diverse ways that we celebrate our freedom.  Because it is our Freedom that makes us strong, not simply our diversity.  But in doing so, we must have the moral courage to stand for and protect our right and the rights of others, even those we disagree with and that’s when freedom gets hard.”  (Two short films were shown.)



Lt. Commander Dwinells also talked about better ideas, selfless service and appreciation.  “Better ideas …  that is what you are free to do. That is what veterans sacrificed for,” Dwinells said.  “A nation started on the idea that we can live in a republic under the rule of law, not under the rules of the king.  A nation where bad ideas are not illegal, but they are immoral and socially unacceptable.  That is what our veterans served for.  To defend the arena of ideas so the good and the best ideas are what our nation is known for.”

Dwinells continued, “In many ways, Veterans Day is about you, and what you will do, what actions you will take to show your appreciation for the selfless service of our nations veterans.  What ideas do you have that will uplift and better your life and those around you?  You should be grateful, thanks to our veterans you live in a free country.” 

(View full speeches in videos below.)




Click on each photo to view larger.
























































4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / Officials and Veterans Enter:



4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / Color Guard, Honor Guard, Orchestra, Band, Choir:



4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker:



4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools, Dr. Christine Carver:



4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / BHS Principal Christopher Troetti:



4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells Intro., Kirsten Battacchio speech:



4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells speech part one:



4th Annual Bethel High School NJROTC Veterans Day Ceremony / Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells speech part two (closing):




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