East’s Veteran staff reflect on their military service

Pony Express staff

Morton East High School honors its own military veterans this Veteran’s Day 2022.

While district 201 doesn’t have a list of the exact number of veterans employed, each of its schools has veteran staff.  If you happen to see any one of these Morton East veterans in the halls, feel free to show your appreciation:  head of security Carlos Murillo, English teacher Anthony Asay, Culinary Chef Karl Benford, PE teacher Lynette Polchan, security Daniel Mendoza, security Mayra Estrada, security Herman Mendez II,  and Cicero school policeman Eddie Lopez.

Head of security Mr. Carlos Murillo is proud of his service.

“I was young, 17 years old, when I enlisted.  It was very hard, but it was fun because I got to travel and see things.   I got to get out of my comfort zone and into my element.  (Being in the military) was a great experience.  I enjoyed it.  Would  I do it again?  Yes, I would,” Carlos Murillo said. 

Security head Mr. Muillo says his experiences in the Marine Corps gave him pride in himself.

“It’s 13  weeks of boot camp:  a lot of people fail, a lot of people quit.  But, once you earn that title, it’s a brotherhood.  You get to graduate with the class and move on and see bigger things,” Carlos Murillo said. 

However, security head Mr. Murillo acknowledges that military service and war can be rough.  Fortunately, the military offers help to those that need it. 

“I was in Iraq in late ’95, early ’96, towards the end of Desert Storm.  I didn’t get to see a lot of action that other people saw in Vietnam and other wars.  But, there are (PTSD and) traumatizing experiences in the Marine Corps (and every war).  (Unfortunately,) some people don’t know how to cope or reach out and get the resouces (they need) for help and mental stability.  If you want help, there’s help out there,” Carlos Murillo said. 

Mr. Murillo says he grew a lot from his experiences in the Marine Corps.  

“I definitely in the military.  I wouldn’t consider myself a bad student, but the Marines did help me out.  When I got out of the Marine Corps, I went straight into college;  I was on the Dean’s list honor roll, and  I had a a good GPA.  The Marine Corps taught me responsibility — taught me to be a better person,” Carlos Murillo said. 

Carlos Murillo keeps into contact with members of his troup. 

“It’s like your brotherhood.  You can always count on another Marine — or someone from another branch.  You have that respect for each other.  You can reach out to those who have been in the same situation to help you through tough times,” Carlos Murillo said.

Head of security Mr. Carlos Murillo served in the US Marine Corps.

Security Mayra Estrada served for six years in the US Army.  She appreciated her time in the military, but it had its drawbacks.

“I have mixed emotions (about my time in the service).  It was fun at times, but difficult because I was away from my family for a while,” security Mayra Estrada said.  “(Still,) I miss the team building and camaraderie (of the troop),” Ms. Mayra Estrada said.

Senior English teacher Mr. Anthony Asay served for four years in the Marine Corps.

“I was never in a war situation, but I was thankful nothing happened.  Thankfully, I got out before Desert Storm started in 1989,” Mr. Asay said.  ”My favorite part were my friends (in the military); I miss them dearly,” Mr. Anthony Asay said.

He plans to reflect on the good times this Veterans Day.

”(I like to celebrate Veterans Day) quietly, with a cup of coffee and some cake and playing cards with my family,” Mr. Anthony Asay said.

Chef and culinary teacher Mr. Karl Benford served in the United States Navy for 25 years before becoming a teacher.

“(Veterans Day) should be a day honoring Veterans you know. Some Veterans paid a price

Chef and culinary teacher Karl Benford is a veteran of the US Navy. (Photo courtesy of Karl Benford)

that most Veterans don’t.  Like me, I was able to come home and there’s some Veterans that don’t have an opportunity to come home. They lose their lives defending democracy, so it is something we should take more seriously because without them we wouldn’t have civil liberties like the ones we have today,” Chef Karl Benford said.

Physical Education teacher Ms. Lynette Polchan is also a veteran, serving 10 years.

“Very good, yeah, I loved it,” Ms. Lynette Polchan said when asked about her experience in the military.