Picatinny Commanding General gives keynote address to high school students

By Abraam DawoudMay 30, 2023

Picatinny Arsenal commanding general speaks to students
Brig. Gen, John Reim addresses students on Proud To Be American Day at Somerset County Vocational and Technical High School in Bridgewater, N.J. on Thursday, May 25, 2023. ( Courtesy Photo New Jersey State Police / Tim Larsen) (Photo Credit: Tim Larsen) VIEW ORIGINAL

Brig. Gen. John Reim, Commanding General of Picatinny Arsenal, gave the keynote address on May 25 to over 400 students from various high schools across Somerset County at the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School (SCVTHS) in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Proud to be American Day, a yearly event organized by U.S. Army veteran and SCVTHS social studies instructor Edward Graf, highlights the importance of honoring the memories of fallen service members, while also promoting patriotism and a deeper understanding of the military ahead of Memorial Day.

“We’re honored to have Brig. Gen. Reim speak today,” said Graf. “It’s important that our students understand the importance and true meaning of Memorial Day and we couldn’t have asked for a better speaker.”

This year SCVTHS paid tribute to Army 1st Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski II of Freehold, New Jersey, as well as Marine Lance Cpl. Brian P. Parrello of West Milford, New Jersey. Both service members were killed in separate improvised explosive device attacks while deployed to Iraq in 2005.

Speaking to the families of Zilinski and Parrello, who were in attendance, Reim expressed his appreciation on behalf of Picatinny Arsenal, noting that a wreath has been placed at their respective trees on the installation’s New Jersey Fallen Service Member Tree Memorial.

“On behalf of every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Civilian at Picatinny Arsenal, we are humbled by your sacrifice and inspired by your resilience,” said Reim. “Like many of our fallen, Dennis and Brian’s dreams and aspirations were taken away from us far too soon.”

Addressing the students Reim spoke about his recent travels to numerous countries that were once under the Soviet Sphere of Influence, noting that the United States of America has become a beacon of hope for those countries.

“The road to the freedoms we enjoy today has not been easy, hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their lives in war defending our freedom and the freedom of others. Yet time and time again this Nation has overcome its challenges and come back stronger,” said Reim, who also serves as Program Executive Officer of the Joint Program Executive Office Armaments & Ammunition.

“You will be the problem solvers for tomorrow’s challenges and will shape American policy for generations to come,” Reim added.

Dennis Zilinski, father of 1st Lt. Zilinski and a Vietnam Veteran, was grateful for the kind words spoken about his son. “We’re honored to be a part of Proud to be American Day and hope that high schools across the nation would replicate this amazing event,” he said.

Other guest speakers included retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, Cynthia Dullea, and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan.

At the conclusion of the event honoring both Zilinski and Parrello, the high school students met with military recruiters and interacted with numerous aircraft and static displays from each branch of the military.