West Orange pre-game football ceremony honors veteran, athletes

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange resident, Vietnam veteran and community activist Al Hughes was recognized in a pre-game ceremony along with West Orange High School Hall of Fame athletes on Sept. 9 in Suriano Stadium.

Board of Education President Laura Lab, Vice President Mark Robertson, and board members Sandra Mordecai and Ron Charles were present to congratulate Hughes and the athletes with Principal Hayden Moore.

Hughes, currently a member of West Orange VFW Post 376, has been a West Orange resident for 28 years and served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, first in Vietnam, then in overseas assignments in Germany and Hawaii. He is the recipient of several awards including the Meritorious Service Award, the Army Commendation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, Sharpshooter Badge and more. He was employed at the Department of Veterans Affairs until 1998.

Hughes stepped onto the field in Suriano Stadium with his wife, Rosemary, to receive his award while fellow VFW Post 376 veterans Ralph Panciello, George Zeevalk and Al Guadagno stood by. Hughes and his fellow veterans then had the honor of the game coin toss, which went to Union City.

In addition to Hughes, seven outstanding WOHS Hall of Fame athletes were recognized for their contribution to the athletics program. These former students are: Tiffany Clarke, track and field, Class of 2002; the now deceased Kurt Bircher, hockey, Class of 2004; Mike Serino, bowling, Class of 2005; Ellis Mensah, track and field, Class of 2008; Emiliano Betancour, wrestling, Class of 2011; Lindsay Flores, softball, Class of 2012 and Lance Smith, football, Class of 2012.

Photos Courtesy of Cynthia Cumming