Veterans Visit With Students at Middle Township High School

Veterans Visit With Students at Middle Township High School

Eight veterans visited Middle Township High School on Monday, November 10, the day before Veterans Day, to share with students their thoughts and experiences as veterans who, between them, had served during World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

The students listened with interest and respect as Joe Griffies, Larry Hogan, Nick Cooney, Ed Cubbage, Joe Walters, Allyn Penkethman and Beau Weisman conveyed not only what their experiences were, but what it meant to them then and now as veterans who served their country. A difficult assignment for young people to digest because, as with any meaningful experience, you "had to be there" to really understand what it's like to serve during a war and the relationships that are created under those conditions. It was obvious that their experiences will remain with those veterans forever.

All of them have gone on to careers in different fields. Joe Walters, who lost the lower part of his left leg in action in Vietnam, taught elementary school in Dennis Township, NJ, for 24 years and won U.S. Judo National Masters Championships eight times — with one leg (see "America's Greatness Is In Its People"). 

After a successful career in sales, Vietnam veteran Joe Griffies has dedicated his life to veterans and veterans' issues. In addition to serving  as a veterans advocate throughout the Greater Philadelphia/South Jersey area, he is the co-host with Ed Cubbage, also a Vietnam veteran, of the "Welcome Home Show" on Saturdays (2-4 pm) on WIBG radio, which deals with veterans' issues locally and nationally. 

After Army service in Vietnam, Ed Cubbage joined Frito-Lay as a driver-salesman and later worked in the U.S. Postal system as a mail processor.  He proudly notes that his wife, Elaine, was a teacher in the Philadelphia area for 38 years, a tradition carried on by their daughter Donna and son Edmund. Their daughter Tracy is a lawyer.

Laurence (Larry) Hogan was an infantry sergeant during the Korean War and retired as a sergeant first class in the Army Reserve. After the service, he worked in an administrative capacity for the Mayor of Boston and then for the Treasurer of Massachusetts before moving to New Jersey.  

Nick Cooney served in the Navy as a turret gunner on a torpedo bomber in the Pacific during World War II. He was involved before, during and after the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and then in operations in the China Sea and against the Japanese homeland, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals and a Presidential Unit Citation. After the war, Nick worked as a plate maker at Cuneo Press in Philadelphia and later in sales. He retired in the 1980s and moved to Sea Isle, NJ, where he is a member of VFW Post #1963. 

Allyn Penkethman joined the U.S. Air Force right out of high school and served 22 years in supply management at Air Force bases throughout the U.S. She retired with the rank of master sergeant. Using her service experience, she now orders supplies for Middle Township High School and is the secretary of the high school's principal. 

Beau Weisman served in the USAF during the Korean War, then went on to a career in journalism. He was a newsman at United Press International, then news editor of an international publication in Tokyo, Japan, and later handled assignments throughout Europe.  He started and ran his own news-oriented PR firm for 30 years and, in 2013, he launched a new online newspaper, CMC Digest.

Burgess "Butch" Hamer, who served in the USAF during the Vietnam War, is a retired Middle Township policeman, owner of Hamer's School of Karate, president of AARP Chapter #1182 and a member of the Middle Township School Board. He joined the other veterans at Middle Township High School in mid-morning to tell the remarkable story of the first woman who served in the US Army. She was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, an African-American unit in the U.S. Army. She served from 1866 to 1868, when she got sick and, during an examination, it was discovered that she was a woman. That ended her military career, but the story lives on and she remains the first woman to serve in the U.S. Army.