Call to Courage

Last year, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation designating October 3rd as statewide Sergeant Dominick Pilla and Corporal Jamie Smith Day. Both of these men courageously lost their lives during the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993 and called the state of New Jersey their home. Pilla and Smith were two of eighteen other men killed during battle and remembered in the 2001 movie Black Hawk Down. 

Annually, West Morris Central celebrates the first week of October with spirit week and the announcement of homecoming queen at the home football game Friday night. This week is filled with excitement and school pride and never fails to bring the school community together. 

Being that Jamie Smith is a graduate of West Morris Central High School, Mr. Rymer and faculty incorporated honoring Jamie along with four other veterans that were alumni to the school as well. The five men honored during spirit week included Private First Class Stanley Pfrommer, class of 1962; Lt. Allison Spiers Berry, class of 1964; Sgt. First Class Larry Maysey, class of 1965; Private First Class John Lindaberry, class of 1966; and Cpl. James E. Smith, class of 1990. 

This special week began on a Tuesday and each day there was a different theme for students and faculty. The first was Hawaiian day followed by color wars, U.S.A. day, and pink out. Every day students and faculty came to school and participated in these spirit days as the excitement grew for Friday’s Call to Courage assembly and homecoming. 

Every morning on the morning announcements, two veterans were recognized followed by a short description. Stanley Pfrommer and Allison Speirs Berry were recognized on Tuesday, Larry Maysey and John Lindaberry on Wednesday, and Thursday was statewide Jamie Smith day.

During the week, there were other things being done in preparation for the Call to Courage assembly. On Wednesday, the school film club showed the movie Black Hawk Down which is about Jamie Smith’s final mission. In addition to the film, there was a veterans luncheon in the library. Honoring our veterans was the overall main focus of the assembly and having the luncheon and remembering the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe allowed the school community to keep this in our minds throughout the week.  

In addition to spirit week, the English department incorporated lessons revolving around the Call to Courage assembly and Jamie Smith. All English teachers showed students Brene Brown’s Call to Courage series which allowed students to understand what it means to have courage. Having teachers educate students on these topics gave students a better understanding of what the men we are remembering endured and the strength they had. 

Concluding the week was the Call to Courage assembly on Friday, October 4th. Students either watched from inside the auditorium or from live streams in classrooms. The auditorium was dimly lit and pictures of the five veterans were on the screen hanging over the stage. In the audience were

the family members of the five men, including Anna Kettler Rock. Ms. Rock was the fiance of Stanley Pfrommer, a graduate of 1962. After the assembly, she wrote a letter to the faculty of the school thanking them for the event. She included that Stanley Pfrommer had not been remembered in this way since his passing on September 6, 1966, and she was very grateful that she was able to witness that. 

Mr. Rymer was the first to speak and introduced family members of the honored veterans which was followed by a short speech by Mr. Buchanan who was a football player at West Morris Central. During his time at the school, Mr. Buchanan was awarded the Jamie Smith Courage Award for the characteristics he demonstrated on and off the football field. 

Closing the assembly was a speech given by English teacher Ms. Gonzalez, who had a very close friendship with Jamie. As his English teacher, and later friend, she had a very close bond with Jamie and his siblings. The experience she shared allowed students to see that Jamie Smith was a regular high school student just as they are and the courage that he embodied at such a young age.

Call to Courage week did not stop there though as that night of the assembly was also the homecoming game. Before the game began, Mayor Matt Murello made a proclamation to honor the fallen heroes and their families. Jamie’s family came out to the field to stand by Murello during the ceremony. 

Although Call to Courage week has come to a close, there are a variety of things students can take away from the experience. While remembering those who have sacrificed their lives, students became aware of what it means to dare greatly and that courage always comes with vulnerability. Collectively, the Call to Courage week has not only successfully honored those who have fallen but also have given students lessons for a lifetime.