St. Francis Preparatory School (SFP) in Fresh Meadows welcomed veterans and current service members to a special Veterans Day celebration on Nov. 8.
The school honored service members who were former SFP students or current faculty members. The day’s activities consisted of a Veteran’s Day-themed curriculum where veterans spoke to students in their social studies classes and a presentation in the school’s auditorium.
According to St. Francis Prep Principal Patrick McLaughlin, the school reached out to its database of former students to find those interested in participating. In total, the school honored 11 veterans, nine of whom graduated from the school, along with two faculty members.
The principal said that in addition to honoring the veterans, the school also wanted to show students how the values they learn in high school can carry over into the real world.
“When you look at St. Francis Prep, we probably have the most diverse student body in New York City. When you try to bring that together under one umbrella, that’s somewhat difficult to do but it works well here because of the mission. The mission of academic success, the mission of spirituality, the mission of integrity [and] the mission of success all in one. I feel when they graduate, they’re ready to step into a college situation but beyond that, to step into the world as a major contributor to people all over the globe,” McLaughlin said.
One of the honorees was keynote speaker and class of 1999 graduate Jophiel Philips, A United States Air Force JAG Major. Philips shared his harrowing story of one of his tours in Afghanistan when insurgents detonated a car bomb near his military base. The attack killed seven soldiers and left Philips with traumatic brain injury and multiple sprains.
First Sgt. Peter McKenna along Master Sgt. George Vera ran into the barrage of bullets from the insurgents raiding the camp. Philips shared that although he and McKenna did not always get along, his sacrifice saved Philips’ life.
“That selfless dedication that they showed to me, that courage, we need for you to show it right here in the United States of America.”
St. Francis Prep also welcomed back two members of the class of 2016, Leonard Legagneur and Jonathan Ally, who joined the United States Marine Corps after graduating. The pair shared that coming back to their alma mater felt like returning home.
“It feels amazing. I miss this place, I miss the people here and now that they see me, they see the uniform and they’re like, ‘Wow, he made it. He’s become who he wanted to be,'” said Ally.
“It hasn’t been too long so it still does feel like home. I feel right back where I was three years ago. It feels good to be back,” added Legagneur.
Legagneur shared that he carried what he learned at school with him during his next phase in life.
“For us, the Marine Corps values are honor, courage and commitment. That goes hand-in-hand with exactly what we learned at St. Francis Prep,” said Legagneur.
The following is a complete list of Veterans Day honorees:
- Daniel F. Lynch, Class of 1947 – U.S. Army 25th Division in the Korean War
- Father of the late 9/11 firefighter Michael Lynch, Class of 1986
- Edward M. Kelly, Class of 1959 – U.S. Army Intelligence Officer in the Vietnam War
- John S. Pereria, Class of 1962 – U.S. Army Specialist, Company F, 40th Armored Division in Berlin
- Robert J. Engel, Class of 1964 – U.S. Army Sergeant, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in the Vietnam War
- Michael M. Lee, Class of 1965 – U.S. Army Decorate Specialist in the Vietnam War
- Jon Fredas, Class of 1983 – U.S. Navy Commander for 22 years
- Jophiel Philips, Class of 1999 – U.S. Air Force JAG Major
- Leonard Legagneur, Class of 2016 – U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal
- Jonathan Ally, Class of 2016 – U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal
- Michael Melendez, Religion Department
- Anthony Grimm, Religion Department