Mallory Lloyd – Mustangs Ahead
(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL) – Veteran’s Day is Wednesday, Nov. 11 and LRHS honors and celebrates its veterans.
Discipline dean Thomas Bellantonio, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructors William Cassidy, Richard Roller, and frequent substitute Gary Bertsch are all military veterans who work at the school and each have special memories from when they served.
Bellantonio served from April 2002 to March 2006 and was an E-4 (Specialist).
He served active duty in Iraq and Jordan during his deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and on several hurricane relief efforts all over Florida during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
His favorite memory of serving was the so-called “prank wars” he and his friends had whenever there was downtime.
Bellantonio said, “Our prank wars kept things fun and took our minds off the negative aspects of serving in a combat zone.”
Cassidy served in the Army and was stationed primarily at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He traveled frequently and spent most of his time deployed.
He served from June 1979 to June 1999 and was a Master Sergeant.
Cassidy’s favorite memory of serving includes working with the Special Forces soldiers that he trained and working through his many assignments.
Roller retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and served from Sept. 1992 to Sept. 2013.
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He served in many locations, including Fort Knox, Fort Riley, Fort Stewart, Fort Hood, University of Louisville, Fort Leavenworth, Schofield Barracks HI, and Miami FL.
Roller’s favorite memory of serving included commissioning his daughter as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army.
Bertsch is a Vietnam War-era veteran who served 13 months in Southeast Asia and was on the cross-country Marine track team.
He served from 1969 to 1972 and was a Captain.
Bertsch’s favorite memory includes qualifying for the Olympic trials.
Bertsch said, “To me Veterans Day is a way show our appreciation for those defending our country. It is an opportunity for everyone to show appreciation for those who volunteered to protect our nation.”
Each celebrates Veteran’s Day differently by hanging out with family, participating in parades, and more.
In non-COVID years, Roller generates participates in Veterans Day parades to celebrate the holiday.
Cassidy celebrates by relaxing with his family and reminiscing.
“Veteran’s Day is a day that I like to reflect on my time in the military and to remember our lost service members.” Cassidy continued.
Bellantonio celebrates by calling a few of his friends that he served with to catch up on life and anything new.
Bertsch hangs up the American flag to celebrate.
Each Veteran encourages Mustangs to serve their country, depending on their interests and goals.
Bellantonio said “Although the military route is not for all, it is especially great for individuals that strive to improve themselves and make more opportunities for their future. Serving allowed me to pay for most of my tuition and helped me become a homeowner.”