Montgomery High School pays tribute to its own hero
“1st Lt. Ashley Henderson-Huff Memorial Drive” Dedicated at Montgomery High School
Posted on December 19, 2017
A new street sign at the front entrance to Montgomery High School now declares it “1st Lt. Ashley Henderson-Huff Memorial Drive.” On the morning of December 19th Ashley’s father Mark Henderson, the Montgomery Veterans Memorial Committee, Montgomery Township School District administrators, Rolling Thunder and Military Order of the Purple Heart representatives, students, teachers, and many honored guests attended a ceremony to unveil the new sign, followed by an indoor assembly about Ashley for high school juniors and seniors.
By LEA KAHN, Staff Writer - December 19, 2017
On the day that would have marked Ashley Henderson Huff's 35th birthday, a sign was unveiled that renamed the entrance to Montgomery High School as 1st Lt. Ashley Henderson Huff Memorial Drive.
Her father, Mark Henderson, pulled off the black cloth that had masked the sign until Dec. 19 - the day of the unveiling - with some help from Tom D'Allessio of Rolling Thunder. The group seeks to remind the public of military service members who were killed in action or who are missing in action.
Henderson Huff, who graduated from Montgomery High School in 2000, was killed in action in Iraq on Sept. 19, 2006 - just six weeks before her deployment was set to end. She had recently married her college sweetheart, Brian Huff.
"Today, we gather to pay tribute to a real American hero - Montgomery Township's one and only daughter to be killed in action," said Mike Maloney of the Montgomery Township Veterans Committee.
Henderson Huff followed in the footsteps of Gen. Richard Montgomery, who is the township's namesake and became the first American military service officer killed in battle on foreign soil in the Battle of Quebec in 1775, Maloney said.
Henderson Huff was a military police officer in the U.S. Army and was teaching Iraqis how to become police officers when she was killed by a suicide bomber, Maloney said. She made such an impression while serving as a military police officer in Iraq that the Iraqi police erected a bronze bust of her and placed it outside of the police academy.
"That is simply unheard of," Maloney said.
To paraphrase the reaction of Gen. George Washington upon learning of the death of Gen. Montgomery, Maloney said, "In the death of this young woman, America has sustained a heavy loss, having proved herself a steady friend (to the country's) rights and of the ability to render (to the country) the most essential service."
"Ashley made a real name for herself. Today, we celebrate that name. We celebrate the life of our steady friend, always. The courageous act of making the ultimate sacrifice with her life for all of us here and well beyond Montgomery Township is why we gather here today," Maloney said.
Superintendent of Schools Nancy Gartenberg said that if the attendees look around, they will see Montgomery Township police officers, clergy, school board members, school district staff, students, administrators and residents.
"Ashley Henderson Huff, with that sign, will live on for all of our students," Gartenberg said. Henderson Huff was a courageous leader who was resilient and who had empathy, she said.
Montgomery Township Police Officer Chris Jaeger said that he and Ashley had a common bond - they both served as soldiers in Iraq. He is a member of the New Jersey Army National Guard.
"Take a moment to remember her," Jaeger told the attendees as they stood on the wind-swept field at the Montgomery High School driveway entrance. She made the ultimate sacrifice "so that we can enjoy our freedom," he said.
In his closing remarks, Maloney said that "this morning, we leave here having left a mark for Ashley. We have done so in perhaps the greatest spot possible in all of Montgomery Township. These very grounds are the gateway to our country's future."
The Montgomery High School students are the country's future, and with it comes great responsibility, Maloney said. Quoting President Ronald Reagan, Maloney said that "freedom is only one generation away from extinction. It is not passed on to our children through the bloodstream. It is fought for, defended and given to them to do the same."
Maloney called on the attendees to "always remember the mark of freedom - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Always respect the cost of that mark and here, personally this morning, which is carved in stone in lieu of a birthday cake."
"Ashley Henderson Huff, born Dec. 19, 1982 and died Sept. 19, 2006. Loving wife, daughter, sister, dedicated soldier (and) a joy to all," Maloney said.