By: Kevin Howard
Lincoln Avenue Middle School’s name was changed to the Sgt. Dominick Pilla Middle School in October of last year when the Vineland Board of Education voted seven-to-one to honor Pilla.
Before the ceremony started, a Black Hawk helicopter from the New Jersey National Guard landed behind the middle school. After people were seated inside the school and the ceremony started, a message from President Donald Trump was read to the crowd.
Remarks were read from representatives of Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Jeff Van Drew. Van Drew also recorded a video message that was played for the crowd.
Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci gave a speech as well.
Dominick’s sister, Jennifer Pilla Martine, was inspired by how many people showed up and was awed by all the support she saw that day.
“The ceremony was so much more than I thought it would be,” Pilla Martine said. “I am so overwhelmed by the amount of people who showed up from Vineland but also from all over the county. Dominick’s brothers, you know, the Rangers, I can’t believe how many of them came. I don’t have words, they are the heroes of the day.”
Pilla, a Vineland High School graduate, and Army Ranger, was killed in action in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope.
A uniform jacket was presented to the Pilla family during the dedication that included Dominick’s name and rank with other military ribbons. A portrait of Pilla was also unveiled which will be displayed in the middle school.
The Last Salute Military Funeral Honor Guard performed a ceremony for Pilla that included a Civil War cannon being fired, a Memorial Bell being rung, and members of the Honor Guard performing a three-volley gun salute.
Benjamin Pilla, father of Dominick, placed a prayer card into a prayer box that travels with the Last Salute Military Funeral Honor Guard.
Captain Kevin Matthews of the Georgia National Guard gave a speech about Pilla and was honored to be at the name dedication.
“The biggest thing about Dominick was he was a leader’s leader, he lead by example,” Matthews said. “And if I could say anything about him, he was caring, he was all the pillars I mentioned in my speech. This is really an honor for me to show up here and see the state of New Jersey and Vineland schools have done something like this for him.”
Additional reporting by Isaiah Showell