Great Neck North High School honors local father, son Army veterans

Great Neck North High School honors local father, son Army veterans
A father and son from Great Neck, both U.S. Army veterans, were honored by North High School last week. (Photo courtesy of the Great Neck School District)

Great Neck North High School’s Aid to Our Troops club recognized a local father and son for their respective service in the United States Army in honor of Veteran’s Day last week.

Members of Noth High School, local elected officials and representatives from the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point and the Alert Fire Department were on hand to honor Great Neck residents Sgt. Nathaniel Gray Sr., USA (Ret.) and Spc. Nathaniel Gray II, USA (Ret.).

Christopher Ceasar, the faculty advisor for the Aid to Our Troops club, said the opportunity to honor distinguished veterans was especially meaningful to him due to his relationship with Gray II.

“It was unbelievable and I think for me, especially, because Nathaniel Gray II played football with me at North High,” Ceasar told Blank Slate Media. “So I’ve known him since we were younger and he’s a great guy and comes from a great family.”

Though Gray II is a lifelong resident of Great Neck, his father was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1944 as the youngest boy of 11 siblings from his parents Tennie and Lilla Gray.

After graduating from Greenville High School in 1964, Gray moved to New York with his sister where he began working as an auto mechanic, among other jobs.

He was drafted into the military on Dec. 4, 1967 and conducted his basic training in South Carolina before moving on to infantry training.

Gray was shipped to Vietnam with the 198th infantry under the American Division, engaging in different combat missions. A Vietnam war veteran, Gray left the service as an E-5 sergeant on Aug. 31, 1969.

More than a decade later, his son was born in Great Neck, graduating from North High School in 1998. Aside from football, Gray II lettered in basketball and track and field, where he tied a previous high jump record en route to becoming a county champion.

Gray II decided to join the military on April 9, 2002, conducting his basic training at the same South Carolina location his father did. He was then attached to the 1/159th Aviation Regiment, where he would serve the next five years, including a year-long deployment in Iraq.

He then continued his military career in the reserves at Fort Totten before returning to Iraw on a second deployment.

There, he performed ground maintenance, participated in tactical convoys and served as a turret gunner. A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gray II now works as a maintenance person at Memorial Field, continuing to serve his community.

“I knew how much his dad and his military service meant to him,” Ceasar said of his former teammate. “I knew that getting the ceremony with his father would really matter to him.”

The Aid to Our Troops club also unveiled a new military veterans display located next to the North High library. The display honors each branch of the military and includes various patches, medals and other noteworthy items shared by service members past and present.

Ceasar said the club, which supports active, reserve and retired military members and military organizations, has come from humble beginnings to a core group that takes initiative in putting together events such as this.

“The kids in the club have been unbelievable, I don’t even have to ask them to do stuff because by the time I start explaining what I want done they tell me they did it five days ago,” Caesar said. “They’re just really dedicated to the work and I think they have a real appreciation towards the military and what the people have sacrificed for our country and our community.”Army 

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