Special Events


Harborside students meet with Vietnam veterans

When you’re in combat, it scars you for life. You’re never really the same … It never really leaves you. It’s just something you live and die with, that’s it,” said Gary Beltoya.

Beltoya, a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam with both the 101st and 82nd Airborne from 1966-68, joined over 20 other veterans as they met with Harborside Academy students as part the school’s Conversation Cafe program on Monday.

“I really loved the people, I did, especially the children,” said Beltoya, who added that what really scared the “living daylights” out of him wasn’t just the enemy, but the tigers they encountered in the jungle.

Syncere Quinn, a 10th-grader at Harborside, listened intently to his grandfather, Anthony Quinn Jr., as he described his experiences as a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran. Quinn Jr. said that working as a teenager in a cemetery and seeing the deceased veterans return gave him a sense of appreciation for their service. Quinn Jr. said of that experience, “It helped me to accept death and really respect the veterans.”

“I think it’s amazing for the students to be able to hear firsthand the accounts of the conflicts,” said Harborside instructor Melissa Thomas, who organized the Conversation Cafe program for her students. “It gives them that perspective that they wouldn’t get just reading about it or hearing me talk about it. They get (it from) someone who actually experienced it. I think of these guys (the veterans) as walking textbooks ... It’s an amazing experience.”

Throughout the year, Thomas’ students have also spoken with World War II veterans, Korean War veterans and veterans of modern conflicts such as the Persian Gulf War and the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The students are currently working on veteran documentaries, and some of the students have interviewed their grandparents about their service for their final project.

“That was really unique for a lot of the kids because they didn’t know anything about their grandparents’ service … so that’s eye-opening for a lot of the students,” Thomas said.

The students’ work will be on display at the Harborside Academy eighth annual Veterans Dinner & Ceremony from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 29.

Harborside is also having a Run to Remember Veteran Honor Run/Walk on May 19 to help raise money for the American Legion Post 21.











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