Vietnam vet marks 25 years as HS guest speaker

January 4, 2013 3:11:26 PM PST
A Vietnam combat Vet celebrated his 25th anniversary as a guest speaker at Collingswood High School in Camden County.

Joe Petrilli has been visiting the seniors in the Vietnam War class at Collingswood High since 1988. Each year, he shares a positive story about his bad experience.

"No matter how bad things get there's always a positive end to things," said Petrilli.

The class' current teacher Jack McConnell was a student in Petrilli's first class.

"Every student at that age can benefit from the message that he gives," said McConnell.

Petrilli talks to the students about all aspects of his Vietnam experience - his two injuries and long recoveries.

He's received two purple hearts and a pair of bronze stars

Petrilli tells the class how his family is also a victim of the war and how his perspective on life has changed because of it.

"I could be a wounded disabled Vet, gone through many surgeries, a year in the hospital and still think life is worth living," said Petrilli.

Assistant principal, Mike Sheridan and Petrilli grew up together. Sheridan says he wanted his students to learn from Vets like him.

On Friday, Petrilli honored his friend with his own Heisman trophy.

"It reads Mike Sheridan: In recognition to his dedication to Vietnam Vets," said Petrilli.

And the students presented Petrilli with the school's Hometown Hero award.

The Vietnam Vet says he too benefits from his annual visits to the school

"I am able to talk about it?they never go away those experiences. I think this enables me to handle them a little better than if I wasn't talking about them," said Petrilli.