News and Events
Fridley Middle School (FMS) held its 33rd annual Veterans Day program on November 11, 2019. The program honors United States military veterans and also serves as an opportunity to teach students about the dedication and sacrifice of service members. Veterans from the community, including members of the Fridley American Legion and Fridley Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 363, were present and received recognition during the ceremony.
The program’s keynote speaker was Spc. Paul Walczak who served in the National Guard 257th Military Police Unit. Walczak joined the Guard in 1986 and served in active duty in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operation of the Gulf War.
Walczak said he made great friendships along the way, and noted the bonds shared among fellow service members are like no other. “You place your life in the hands of another person,” said Walczak. “It was that commitment of veterans looking out for each other, that saved my life.”
The two main lessons that Walczak stressed to students were accountability and teamwork. “You must be accountable. You are the one who is responsible for your own actions, and your decisions are your own,” he said. “Teamwork means working well with others, and it can be difficult when you don’t see eye to eye with someone, but you must always follow through with the task.”
Three 8th grade students shared stories about the veterans in their lives. Emily Duba spoke of her grandfather, Denny Sibinski. At 20 years old, he was drafted into the army to fight in the Vietnam War.
Ethan Andler spoke about his grandfather, Dale McJunkin, who was in the army and was also drafted into the Vietnam War. McJunkin was trained to be a helicopter pilot, and served a year transporting supplies back and forth from the front line. During a particularly high-risk mission, the team’s helicopter was shot, caught fire, and landed roughly, breaking the aircraft in half and twisting its front end. As the co-pilot of the mission, McJunkin received the Purple Heart for helping land the helicopter in the safest manner possible, protecting the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Alexis Bright shared a story about her father, Michael William Pulju, who served in the Navy. Pulju worked on and repaired jet engines and aircraft fuel systems on airplanes, such as the F-14 and A7E Corsair. He was deployed a total of six times, was involved in several conflicts and wars, and received many medals for his service.
Following the ceremony, community members and veterans enjoyed cookies and punch in the FMS cafeteria, which was decorated by the Student Council. The students designed “Thank You” posters and personally thanked each veteran who attended.