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Marine dad keeps watch over Austintown Elementary



Published: Mon, January 28, 2013 @ 1:24 p.m.

Newtown killings spur Iraq War vet back into service at Austintown school

  SEMPER FI

For retired Marine Staff Sgt. James Skok, the weather outside Watson Elementary is more like his tour in Iceland than his tour in Iraq, when his unit pulled down a statue of dictator Saddam Hussein.
But as the snow falls, Skok keeps watch on the outside to protect the students and staff inside the school.
“You just never know,” Skok said. “One guy in an apartment building could be having a bad life and decide to take it across the street [to the school]. That’s why I’m teaching them to be observant. I just start looking out for the worst extremes.”

For retired Marine Staff Sgt. James Skok, the weather outside Watson Elementary is more like his tour in Iceland than his tour in Iraq, when his unit pulled down a statue of dictator Saddam Hussein. But as the snow falls, Skok keeps watch on the outside to protect the students and staff inside the school. “You just never know,” Skok said. “One guy in an apartment building could be having a bad life and decide to take it across the street [to the school]. That’s why I’m teaching them to be observant. I just start looking out for the worst extremes.”

By Susan Tebben

stebben@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

For retired Marine Staff Sgt. James Skok, the weather outside Watson Elementary is more like his tour in Iceland than his tour in Iraq, where his unit pulled down a statue of dictator Saddam Hussein.

But as the snow falls, Skok keeps watch on the outside to protect the students and staff inside the school.

“You just never know,” Skok said. “One guy in an apartment building could be having a bad life and decide to take it across the street [to the school]. That’s why I’m teaching them to be observant. I just start looking out for the worst extremes.”

Skok was in the Marines from 1992 to 2010, when he retired after a back injury kept him from performing at his best. A 1990 graduate of Austintown Fitch High School, Skok came back to Austintown, got married, and became a father to his two stepdaughters, Madison and Danika Bucko. He became a self-proclaimed “Mr. Mom” to the 8- and 5-year-old and for the most part kept to himself.

“I’m telling you, being a Mr. Mom is an eye-opener. I’d ask any man to do it for a week and realize how much work there is to be done,” Skok said. “My hat’s off.”

But in December, when 20 children were killed by a gunman who stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Skok saw other veterans jump into duty at schools nationwide.

“I started doing my own investigation into how many times that had happened and saw that other members of the military were helping out in schools,” Skok said.

His stepdaughter asked if he could do it here, and that was all it took for Skok to dust off his camouflage and ask if he could help at their school.

After a talk with Watson’s principal, Sheila Palumbo, and Superintendent Vincent Colaluca, Skok was welcomed into the school to patrol during the day, greet visitors at the doors and watch the buses as they leave at the end of every day.

Trained in martial arts and security forces work, Skok is applying everything he learned as a Marine to his work at Watson.

“I think it’s a great tribute to all those who have served,” Colaluca said. “He’s a father and a community member in uniform, and I think for the kids to see that brings more respect.”

Patrolling the halls and the outdoor learning units isn’t the trenches of war, but it still has its challenges, Skok said.

“Twenty percent of the kids wondered what I was doing here, and 20 percent thought it was cool that they had a GI Joe at their school,” Skok said.

His main objective in this work, which he has deemed his “mission,” is to watch for suspicious activity, and to recognize and identify when his presence is needed in a situation — whether it be a suspicious person or a frustrated parent in the office.

Though he said armed guards at schools would be a good idea, for most situations he’s dealt with, the two-way radios he’s instituted for staff are the best tool. The radios had been used for bus communications but were repurposed.

“The No. 1 weapon to fight is communication,” he said.

Skok is not paid for his services at the school but believes the chance to work in schools is an opportunity to get more veterans out serving their communities. Police could be there for the law enforcement, but military personnel to patrol as Skok does would be a benefit to everyone, he said.

“Veterans need jobs, the government could pay veterans to have their presence,” Skok said. “I’m no hero; I’m just serving my country this way ... what’s their excuse?”

While the school district waits for its new buildings to be finished — buildings that are constructed to include the latest security measures — Skok said he will stay at Watson to be a calming presence, if nothing else.

“I pray every day that something won’t happen,” Skok said. “But I’m glad I’m here to at the very least give [the staff] time to call for help if something does happen. I’d give my life for anybody here, in a heartbeat.”


Comments

1JullienPetrella(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

While at first look this sounds like a noble thing for someone to do, I would question what he hopes to accomplish. Sure a "safe" school but who knows what that looks like. I mean I'm sure there were fathers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who did this exact thing after hearing about a drone dropping a bomb on a school. This guy seem like he may have nothing better to do but again I guess it is better than nothing. I mean sure a job or help with charity may actually do more for children and society than patrolling the school but hey who actually cares...

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2TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I am currently Forward Deployed to the Middle East and a Gunnery Sergeant of Marines....Staff Sergeant if you are reading this: Wrong Answer Brother!! First, if you were indeed a Marine and had the time in that you say you do (18+years), you would, first off, that we blouse our boots and wear green Skivvy shirts under our Utilities. Also, you would know that MCO P1020.34G w/Changes 1-5 not only states this in writing (read paragraph 3038 in reference to blousing of Trousers. Also Paragraph 3036 specifically deals with the wearing of Olive Drab Skivvy shirts and Olive Drab shirts ONLY in the MARPAT Utility uniform), it also strictly forbids wearing Utilities in the capacity that you have chosen to. The order states in Paragraph 2005 CH 5 2. "The utility uniform is a working uniform and not appropriate
for wear in a civilian environment."
How do you sleep at night Brother, retired or not how can you blatantly break a Marine Corps Order and feel right about it. I've been in since 1995 and if my uniform doesn't represent me and my fellow Marines with the respect that we deserve I WILL NOT WEAR IT!!Breaking any Marine Corps Order...inconceivable!! Ok I get it, you got kids at the school, applaud what you are doing and as a Father I get it. But who are you to think you can use the Marine Corps in this capacity? Who authorized you to do this? And who the hell looked you over before you left the house? My wife watched the video and automatically picked you apart and picked apart the haphazard wear of the uniform that you supposedly sacrificed 18+ years to wear in defense of our great nation, and she's a Military Spouse, not a Marine!!Couldn’t you had just done the same without soiling the uniform that my (or our; the jury is still out on if this is a case of "Stolen Valor" or not) Brothers and Sisters are now wearing and dying in? You know you could have stood in civilian attire and also provided over watch, but I guess that wouldn't have been sexy enough. Don’t even attempt to validate your above disregard for the rules and regulations with the "lack of a suitable exchange" route; the wear of the Utility uniform in this capacity is WRONG any way you slice it and I would be remiss if I didn't mention the F***ed up manner in which you wore it Staff Sergeant!

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3TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

The Marine Times specifically wrote an Article on this very same garbage (http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/...), in which our SgtMaj of the Marine Corps Michael Barrett specifically states “This is not the right thing. Not the right time. And not the right place,” Barrett said. “The uniform doesn’t make the man. It’s your character that defines you.” It also states that "he understands Marines’ desires to protect children, but that no one should be wearing the uniform outside of rules and regulations." So, it goes without saying that if the Top Senior Enlisted Marine has spoken out against this, there is no way that what you have done is authorized in any way shape form or fashion by my beloved Corps, and "once a Marine, always a Marine" or not, it is wrong on every level and has done nothing but portray the Marine Corps in a manner none of us who wear or wore the uniform can in our right minds approve of. It's like speaking on my behalf without my permission, and in this case I will represent my fellow Marines and I and correct your blatant disregard for the wishes of our Senior Leadership and the Marine Corps Orders that my fellow SNCO's and I struggle to enforce on a daily basis; something that I would expect a recently retired SNCO of Marines to remember and understand.
Vindy, let it be said that the subject of this article and the video on your website "does not" represent nor speak for the Marine Corps in any way, shape, form or fashion. If you don't believe me, contact Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sergeant Major Michael Barrett. He can be reached through the Pentagon and I am sure he will have zero issues offering his take on your article and video.
Staff Sergeant, do the right thing; beg the Vindicator to strike this article and the video and if you have to stand watch at your school and want to make a point, do so without soiling that which you say you sacrificed 18+ years for.
Curious to know in which units you served in......Your Leadership failed you for 18 years. Contact them and ask for an apology.

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4TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Do you have or maintain any of your Service Uniforms? If a 80 yr old Marine can break out his Dress Blues for a service of some sort (Funeral/ Marine Birthday celebration) I am sure that you can do the same. However, again, you have no authority to use the United States Marine Corps to make a political point, but I am sure you know this.
Also, that jacket you were wearing with your Utilities outside in the video....you know, don't you Staff Sergeant?!?!

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5youngstown615(98 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

To the Gunny.........???????

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6TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

To Ytown615: If the Staff Sergeant that is the topic of this article is indeed a Marine, he gets it loud and clear. My apologies to you and all the other readers of the Vindicator who are out of the loop and do not understand.

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7jeratboy(127 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

We understand that a man is protecting children.

I wonder what Adm. Leahy, Gens. Custer and MacArthur, and many others would think since they were known for using bits and pieces of uniforms.

They wonder why people won't hire veterans. You comments show why.
Don't bother to reply since I am not wasting my time arguing with a rigid rule book reader.

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8TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Obviously you didnt read my comments jeratboy; he is free to guard and protect as many schools as he sees fit and I commend him for that. What, you need a uniform to protect children?
All the names you metioned were not Marines, and what they would or would not think of my comments do not concern me, especially considering the fact that the dead cannot speak. That a Staff Sergeant is blatantly breaking the rules and is pictured and on video does. I am not a rule book reader partner, I live my life by these rules and enforce them. If he is going to lay claim to my way of life for some noteriety he better do the same or stand by to get called out.

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9USMC0331(150 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Guns

I was thinking the same thing. Look at the video closer... I don't think he even has boots on. I myself think that if I were to break the rules, I'd at least be looking crisp and clean. Maybe he has a leg injury or something, I don't know, but still I wouldn't be looking like that.
God bless him for wanting to do the right thing but what people on here don't realize like you and I do, the Marine Corps has time honored traditions and in the highest of discipline which sets us waaaayyy apart from the other services. I can honestly say I commend him for trying to do the right thing but as a Staff NCO he should definitely know better. Something just isn't sitting right about this.
Guns-Semper Fi brother and be safe over there. Was there myself the majority of 2005.

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10Marineskok(7 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

My name is James Skok, served 18 years from 92-10, got hurt over Iraq War, with 7th Marines, 1st Marine Div! I was at MWTC, Bridgeport Ca. 92-95, and 97-00, Security Force, Iceland 95-97, 29 Palms MCAGCC the rest. I was a Martial Arts Instructor and would've been a GySgt if the Marines didn't know I was getting out. Thats another story! I shed my blood, time, tears, and 2 divorced families, putting the Marines first! Now I'm standing duty at Watson, volunteering my time and skills for our kids. I'm not there for a "DOG AND PONY SHOW GUNNY!" I'm there to protect! If you ever accuse me of being a fake Marine, GUNNY I will make you my example! I'm doing this for my step daughter, and if you seen what i've seen about their security, we have to protect our kids! You would post a Battalion of Marines to secure our loved ones, and we worry about other countries overseas! Our SCHOOLS AND CHILDREN NEED HELP!! Semper Fi "Do or Die!"

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11TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

USMC0331, appreciate it Brother. Recently retired....there's no way the Staff Sergeant don't know better. What bothers me is that this drum has been beat more than once over the last month or so and if he did the reserach he says he did he'd know that our Senior Leadership, while acknowledging the fact that it's commendable, has also spoken out against it (wearing uniforms in this capacity) due to the fact that it has been in writing for years now and against regulations. Then you have people coming on here to his defense taking what I know he, the Staff Sergeant, would understand completely out of context and ignorant to the way that we as Marines and the way the Staff Sergeant himself says he lived his life for 18 years.
If retired Marines around the globe know these things and still maintain uniform regulations he should as well. I'd be singing the dudes praises for the next week and sharing it with my Devils if it wasn't done in a manner inconsistent with our upbringing.

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12TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Staff Sergeant, first off, don't threaten me. You cannot for one second tell me that you cannot set the appropriate example for that school, it's faculty and it's children without wearing the uniform. You cannot tell me that we elected people who are deaf, dumb and blind into positions to handle this sort of thing. You cannot tell me that you do not know that the use of the Uniform for a political objective is punishable for a Devil Dog who is on active service and, although your service is up, you take up the obligation to set the appropriate example when that first button is buttoned on that blouse. Would you say the same to your Sgt's Maj if each and every one you served under would approach you about this? You know that they would. My heart goes out to you that your service was cut short, but there is no way in hell you do not know that this is wrong Staff Sergeant. Tell me you have never gotten pissed at someone wearing the Uniform inconsistent to it's regulations and I'll tell you that you never had a Devil one under your charge.
Understand where your heart is at and I think I have mentioned that more than once. How do you not expect "Stolen Valor" to not cross an individuals mind who stood on the yellow footprints within the last 18 years and knows this regulation before even crossing the Parade Deck at Graduation? You know better and you know I am right. I stand by everything I have said Staff Sergeant and you know that the right thing is to ask for this to be taken down before the inevitable happens; someone else sees this and it's the Commandant and the SgtMaj of the Marine Corps humbling you, not some Gunnery Sergeant.
Staff Sergeant, there's nothing wrong with Khaki's and a nice Polo. Those Cammi's do not make you Superman and is a weak deterrent at best considering everyone knows you are not armed.

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13Marineskok(7 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

With my metal plate in my back, I have to do everything in my power to make it, even wearing my running shoes(Go Getters). I know more than most about uniforms, and yes I should be wearing my blues. But I didn't come and do a "Dog and Pony Show" I came to protect our kids from EVIL. The event that happen up at Sandy Hook Elementary is pure evil! I'm a disable Marine, volunteering my time, even with the pain, helping the school, and doing this for a reason. We need the Government to pay for security, like having Veterans that need jobs, stand post.

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14tburk1(30 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

We are so blessed to have this wonderful Marine protecting out kids. I know it is easier for me to go to work knowing he is in my daughter's school. Thank you Mr. Skok for giving us peace of mind.

Grace's (aka Bruiser) Mom

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15copstarkey(27 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

To the fellow who gave examples of other famous military members wearing a uniform after thier service, when did Custer wear his? I thought the Battle of porbably was his last time.

Staff Sergeant, your heart is in the right place, but you have went about this wrong. Those of us still out here, just like you once were, may understand what you are doing but not in this manner. We have rules to follow, and the uniform is not what makes us who we are or what we are capable of doing. You are 1 of at least 3 of our fellow brothers who have done this same thing. 1 wearing your rank in Cali, a rank he never wore. And our leadership has told us that putting ourselves out there in this way is incorrect. You want to volunteer to protect a school, fine. But not wearing our uniform.

Doing things such as this, we tread a fine line, one that once it is crossed we cannot cross back over. You need to remember that America does not need us, they want us. And all it would take is for some of us to inject our personal interpretations of our rules, and get into some trouble. You spoke of making an example of the Gunny, SSgt you made an example of yourself. I applaud you for protecting your children and the children of others. But I would do it in another way.

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16Marineskok(7 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Thanks for all the positive comments, and ideas, when it's time, I will change my uniform. Just want to make a point, and changes to our schools security. I will never stop serving this country, what I feel is right for my Country, Community, and God. I don't want to disrespect my Marine brothers, but like we all learned Mission comes first! This is my mission!

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17uselesseater(229 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Marine Staff Sgt. James Skok is on to something here.

There must be tons of former and trained service members out there on the sidelines.

Some are retired, some have been disabled. But all have the knack for keep the school zone safe.

We need to replicate this.

If parents volunteer for PTA, then why not for hallway and security detail.

This is one of those first take it back steps to bringing our schools back to the community.

My hat off to James Skok.

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18whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

The Gunny Quaks me up, Glad you are trying to help Skok. Too many keyboard killers.
Keep up the good work.

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19nipsy(133 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Interesting story...I just hope that Principal Palumbo did her duty and completed all of the proper backround checks on Mr.Skok. I am all for having security(armed or unarmed) in the schools to protect our children. That said, we must always make sure that those people that are given such responsibility/power are thoroughly checked out both with criminal backround checks and contacting former employers/associates to help make sure that they are right for the position, even if volunteering.

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20VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

With all respect to our Marines and Gunny for their fine efforts in protecting our Country...I think Gunny would become a good bean counter in civilian life.

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21loro(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

WOW!!!! So many things to comment on here....First off, I would like to say that I think Mr. Skok has the best intention in mind. I think safety for our children is important,I think having veterans do jobs like these is what we need.(A great benefit to our children's safety AND giving our veterans JOBS).I think a person who cares that much about their kids(especially step children) is fantastic especially when in this area you see people who dont see their kids or pay child support for them.HOWEVER...If a crazy or drugged up individual wants to do damage,wouldnt this be almost TAUNTING THEM?Also, I dont know if it is wise to say that you have back issues etc to show your weakness(es)I do see the point that you should not be wearing your uniform without proper authorization.. if you worked at a security place and no longer did, or were a policeman but no longer were, you would not be allowed to wear that... you are no longer in the military,and it is almost representing that you were paid either by the military or by the school to work there... also wouldnt this get a lot of people talking to you, especially since now you are in the newspaper??? If your intentions are to protect, then just do it in plain clothes, and without the publicity to ensure their safety....or a COVERT OPERATION!.....I wish that you never have to deal with any of the things that you want to protect them from...I hope you can do the right thing....I hope that our governments choose to start paying for our vets to do these jobs... i hope it frees up some of the police to patrol the areas better... and I wish a SAFE RETURN TO ALL OF OUR SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN....WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY, I HOPE WE DO NOT CHOOSE TO FIGHT AMONGST OURSELVES WITH PEOPLE WITH GREAT INTENTIONS, BUT WRONG WAYS OF GOING ABOUT IT!

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22tthomas101(3 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr. Skok thank you for your service. I understand the concern from the other military people about the uniform. If that is the issue then let's get you a uniform other than military that let's everyone know why you are there. As a resident of Austintown I would be willing to help pay for such a uniform and I know many other's that would be willing to help as well. Talk to the APD and see what they suggest. Your heart is in the right place and we appreciate that. The marines are a special breed of people and we should respect the rules they have in place about wearing official uniforms.

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23Marineskok(7 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I had secret clearance in the Marines, they did an extended back ground check from the FBI and other agencies. The Board of Education had me fill out proper paperwork, and sent me to do another background check that I had to pay $54 (VA dont pay much) dollar out of my own pocket. There is nothing on it to have me volunteer my own time or being a risk factor. I have my two step daughter there, one in kindergarten and the other in 2nd grade. I have back pain everyday so bad sometimes that I can't even bend over, sometimes I go home during lunch just to lay down, still do physical therapy twice a week just to make it. I'm there for eyes on and to teach others to make a difference.

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24hmm(183 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Once a marine always a marine ... The skills ,training is within so with that said the uniform is the dog and pony show .... Maintain your presence and vigilant observation you have been trained in and provide the service you are .... BUT like any other uniform wearing service .. military , police. IF you choose to wear it, wear it as regulation states since you are a represenative of that origination past present and future ..... Thank you for what you are doing ....

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25tburk1(30 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

With all due respect, I am saddened to that the discussions are focusing more on his uniform and less on his sense of duty and the need for security in our schools.
Don't get me wrong, I grew up in a house with a die-hard Marine and I understand the importance they place on structure and duty. I am simply saying that you guys are missing the bigger picture. If required, he should change the uniform.

However, the bigger picture here is we have lots of capable military members unable to find work. We have a need for security in our schools; judging from what I know of Marines, I can't think of more capable individuals.

We owe a great deal to all of you. I would love to see us band together and push for it to become standard to have an ex-military member in all elementary schools.

As for the uniform, Tthomas101 I will glady chip in as well.

Grace's Mom

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26captdinger(108 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Sounds like a few of these guys should have been in the movie "A Few Proud Men"

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27TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Ma'am,
I do not question the Staff Sergeants heart and I am in no position as a Marine to argue semantics in regards to security in schools and the governments stand on it. My voice is heard only in a voters booth and will remain that way until I myself retire. I made that decision each and every time i raised my right hand to sacrafice another four years.My issue with the Staff Sergeant, while seen as malicious and vile in the eyes of many, is one I am certain that the Marine deep in the retired Staff Sergeants body can appreciate. I am 100% certain he would rather have an anonymous Gunnery Sergeant give him grief over the Internet than a Senior Leader visiting him at his children's school in front of everyone and asking him to explain himself. I do not make the policy, he knows that. As SNCO's we enforce it, and while I have been rather brutal in my approach, which I do not regret in the least, I am sure he would rather it go this route than a Senior Leader catching wind of it via the media and paying him a visit in front of his kids and the people who have placed trust and confidence in him.
We as Americans have the power to make our voices heard, but like so many of us we want instant results. I urge those who take this matter of school security to heart and find a way to make their voices heard. Just don't do it in the names of others. That is all.

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28Marineskok(7 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Out of all the years in the Marines and in life, their are two types of people. Doers and complainers, some just talk the talk while others walk the walk. Gunny is a talker! Gunny how come you are over seas and have so much time? I never had no time as a Marine, always doing stuff, even today, broken and still do alot! Or are you really a Marine Gunny? I need to call my Marine friends and do a background check! Semper Fi

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29AtownParent(562 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

As I am sure my name will suggest, I have children in the schools district of Austintown and I have to say THANK YOU to Mr. Skok for stepping up and adding another set of eyes watching over our children, and THANK YOU for serving this country.

To The Gunny - you are a jerk and need to find something better to do instead of tearing down a man, father and fellow Marine.

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30TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Hey Staff Sergeant, do not get upset because I called you out on being wrong. Act like the professional you claim you once were and eat humble pie when a slice is rightfully cut. I am not going to engage in a war of words with a Staff Sergeant who is wrong and knows it and now has his back into a corner. Want to prove that I am not out of the box on this one, try this out Staff Sergeant since your memory is fading about our orders and regulations:
1) Take you ass into a recruiting station in that uniform and ask them if you are wrong.
2) When they tell you that you are, demand to speak to their Commanding Officer and SgtMaj and ask them the same.
3) When they also tell you that you are wrong, ask to speak to the Commanding General and the SgtMaj of the Eastern Recruiting reigon who I am sure can get you in direct contact with the SMMC or Gen Amos.
You cannot see the forest for the trees SSgt. DO NOT put my and my fellow Marines manner in which we provide for OUR families in jeporady because you wanna make a name for yourself. All it takes is one idiot in our uniform to do something wrong and then not only do you give the Government a reason to again question if it needs a Marine Corps, you also create a lot of work for it's Commandant and SgtMaj, who now have to do damage control instead of focusing on their most precious resource: Their Marines. If all of this is not enough, click on my name and leave an email address, I will provide you a DSN number to my senior leadership out here and you can explain your "background check", the reason why you are doing it and apologize for wasting their time Staff Sergeant! Again, read the order Staff Sergeant from top to bottom and then tell me I am in the wrong.

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31TheGunny(10 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Think about it Staff Sergeant, the only folks supporting you in this have no Military experience. If you werent so short sighted you would understand I am trying to save you and that school some embarrasment. If I didnt call you out, someone else would have, possibly in person. Is that a risk you are willing to take? If your mind was in the right place you'd thank me instead of trying to spin this around. Good luck Staff Sergeant, again I commend what you are doing, despise the manner in which you do it.

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32cambridge(3031 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I think they need to take the background check for becoming a Marine up a few notches.

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33new_in_town(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

My kids just started Austintown schools following Christmas break. I can honestly say I felt at ease leaving them knowing he was there. He greeted us at the door. My kids felt safer too. I don't care what you wear or how you wear it. You've set my mind at ease. Thank you!

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34chrisloop(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I served with SSGT Skok in 1995. He is a great marine, and doing what he can to keep the school where his children attend safe. Some of the comments I am reading are ridiculous. Semper Fi my friend!
By the way, some of the toughest, meanest marines I ever served with were much less critical of Marine Corps policies, procedures, regulations, etc. When it came down to being a real Marine, they were top notch. When you saw them in uniform, you might be quick to judge them. From what I have read about the man, Chesty Puller was just that kind of Marine. So don't judge this Retired Marine by what you perceive to be as, "unauthorized attire". I am well aware of the regulations stating that the battle dress uniform is not to be worn on liberty, or outside of a military installation. You know some of the worst, most disgustingly cowardice, "hide behind my rank", Marines I ever had the displeasure of serving with, were also some of the most staunch, most unforgiving of Marine Corps policy violation, "Garrison Marines" I ever met. I am a gulf war veteran, and was a Platoon Sergeant in the infantry, and some of the best Marines I ever led, were the crappiest looking in garrison. Yeah I get your point about being an example, having your boots spit-shined, deadly sharp creases, authorized wear of Marine Corps uniforms, etc, etc, but there is no need to beat this Marine up over something so trivial. I know, I know...,it's not trivial to you.

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35copstarkey(27 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Unbelieveable! I guess we will have to read between the lines and get to the real point someone is trying to make. You took a very admirable thing and politicised it. As stated above, and I will quote "Just want to make a point, and changes to our schools security. I will never stop serving this country, what I feel is right for my Country, Community, and God. I don't want to disrespect my Marine brothers, but like we all learned Mission comes first! This is my mission!' end quote. Mr Skok, your mission! You are retired, you feel this is your mission, you as a Marine were not tasked with this job. We are not tasked with this duty, no matter how admirable and important as our precious children are. If we were, we would be a hair away from a police state! And by wearing a uniform you are including all of us. you may not want to disrespect us, but you have!

You also state that their are plenty of vets who could and should be hired to do this. If this was all about the security of the schools and the children, then why make the gesture the way you did. Would it not be better to go down to the school board and inquire, press our elected leaders for an answer. Or just show up and be an example by volunteering. Unless you were trying to make an example, IN YOUR OPINION, that by showing up in uniform you could shed some light on how vets could make a difference and that our govt should step in. This was a political move, and all about you. The very reason that every man and woman who currently serves do not wear a uniform when taking part in activities such as this. You may be honorable in your reasons, but have let everyone you left behind down in the process.

I am saddened over the loss of the children in school shootings, over how little has been done, and the "dog chasing its tail" version of gun control. And yes, there are many vets who would line up to do a job such as this, I will soon be one of those vets. But I am sickened almost as much as how you took this upon yourself to bring this institution into YOUR version of a political battle. You want to call the gunny out, well I'll vouch for him, I know where he is and what he is doing. But Mr Skok, you are wrong. Partner, if I were you, I would back down now over this and just continue to volunteer and be there for the children. The uniform does not make the man. 2 wrongs will not make this right.

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36copstarkey(27 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

To all the others who have posted here, I am sorry you have been brought into this. We can argue this out all day, and inevitably it will turn to gun control, foreign policy, wasted tax dollars, etc.

I would like to assure you all that those who serve have not forgotten who we protect and why. But we have rules, these rules guide us and help us bring everyone home from the fight. Since this tragedy, there have been individuals who have done the same thing as Mr Skok. Regretfully, not all have been what they said they were. We are all educated on what is right and wrong on how we present ourselves in these types of events. Something Mr Skok undoubtedly knows. We do this so that our forces are not seen and used as political tools. WE SERVE YOU! We are here to protect you.

I feel Mr Skok's concern and all of yours, I have a child that soon will go to High School and I worry everyday. And I volunteer with school children every chance I get, because they need a postiive example. But this is just not the right way to get this solved.

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37WalterSobchack(19 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Who at the Austintown schools thought this was a good idea and gave it the ok?

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38Buddedrose913(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Thank you Marine Skok for what you are doing VOLUNTARILY!! I wish there were one or a few of you at each school in every district across the USA. There are a small percentage of retired military who would give as unselfishly as you have. That is why it is said, "The Few, The Proud" and all the negative comments should continue to be your motivation. Metal plate, chronic pain, continued physical therapy...just to make it through everyday ASIDE from the strenuous volunteer work!?!? What you are displaying is inner strength, determination and loyalty to what you believe. I believe what you are doing is phenomenal and admirable. I do NOT believe what you are doing will antagonize someone to come there. Evil preys upon the weak and unguarded...you are deterring it's presence and it's approach to that building. Normal citizens do NOT care if you are in your full uniform or not...we do not care if you're in jeans...we care that your presence is there. We care that your training is within you while you are there and, undoubtedly, would do whatever is necessary to protect the hundreds of children and adults within the building DESPITE your "disabilities"...if something were to happen, your training and adrenaline would kick in and you would forget your injuries, pain and restrictions. I know very well that your goal is NOT media recognition or public approval. Your goal is to make your step-daughters feel safe. Anyone who is a parent knows and understands what you are doing and are thankful that you are in a position to do that. Thank you, thank you James...YOU ARE AWESOME!!

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39UsuallyBlunt(105 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

The Staff Sgt. wearing his uniform improperly may be an affront to those who care to "bean count the regulations" but, in all reality...him wearing camo fatigues not only makes him a (sacrificial) target, it also allows for instant recognition by students and staff alike...not a bad thing! A change in uniform may be needed though, so as not offend the touchy...

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40whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Makes you wonder why Gunny cries so loud. He must be getting tired of peeling potatoes. Keep up the great work Mr. Skok .
Sounds like a good idea to get a Security Uniform so the pencil pushers do not get offended.

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41bunkpatrol(92 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

The rules are the rules. Glory is the only reason he wears the uniform in this way. It does nothing as a deterrent and it can even be argued that the "militarization" of our schools is the wrong approach or message to be sent.

Gunny, I applaud your honor and faith to the code you swore allegiance to, without regard to your own personal viewpoint or agenda. And you have conducted yourself here, as a gentleman. The same cannot be said regarding the name calling et al that those taking the other side have fallen victim to. It demonstrates the shortcomings in their reasoning in the methods they choose.

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42whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

You are probably right bunkpatrol.

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43justice50(8 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Protecting children is one thing, being an over watch is a great and noble idea. There are not only veterans out of work but also police officers, especially in this area with multiple police academies pumping out cadets. Fact of the matter is, an armed assailant should be met with equal force, and showing a militaristic presense in our school systems may sound good, look good on the news, but school zones inside these great boarders should not be manned in that manner. School Resource Officers has always provided an effective measure, but not an ultimate prevention. The State or Federal government should form a seperate organization that provides a minimum number of officers per student population for public schools, although a great expense i'm sure most would be willing to spend a few extra dollars for the safety of our children. Mr. Skok applaud you for your service, but as many have said poor choice on the medium you delivered. If you really want to volunteer your time for security measures join a police orginazation as a reserve/auxillary and volunteer as an officer who has the ability to perform all aspects of police functions.

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44hellokitty(161 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

It's always a good idea for a background check to include the local court system ;)

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45FormerYtowner(96 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Gunny, go away. Don't go away mad.....just go away.

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46Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Gunny aka Stan , IT must be Stan to be so Stupid .
IF not ,I will never support the Military
again if you are what comes out .
We do not need people like you in our military. And I put in 25 years . How low we have come .

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47copstarkey(27 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

25 yrs, so than you should know why he said what he did. What was said was spot on.
Your post is only a step above the guy before yours who recycled his smart comment from an earlier post a few months ago. How original.

I could do the same to you, but it is clear you don't get it and are caught up in the armchair politics

As for the gunny and your pulling support, sleep well tonight. He is in harms way so you can. He is out there and took the time to do and say what is right so our military can protect your freedom. Even if it's the freedom to post what you did.

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48USMC0331(150 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

"For those who fought for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know."

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49kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Someone above said " thegunney" in civilian life would make a good bean counter. That's probably true but I would put him in a good secure straight jacket first- because that's (unless it's just a put on- the rant and rhetoric) is where he belongs.

I mean, give me a break! I go at least once a week to the main library and what do I see- one or two armed guards- protecting what? The money collected for over-due books?

I go to the Mahoning County County Court House and what do I find? A security gate with a metal detector. Try getting in there with a gun! Apparently we do a better job of protecting our Judges and Shysters than we do our children.

Every school could- and should- be equally secure. The idea of a well-meaning ex-serviceman (unarmed) going in patrolling the hallways is ludicrous. Put in armed police and metal-detectors- a much better way to keep our children safe.

P.S. The "gunny" is either a nut-job or a put-on- one or the other. Maybe if we sent in someone "properly uniformed" with "bloused boots"- it would make a difference. Any armed intruder would be so over-awed by that he would drop his weapon and surrender!

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50kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I know it has to be a put-on- the "Gunney" bit. If it is Stan- I won't retract my words. Stan is a little flackey, too.

Seriously, we protect our public buildings- the Courthouse, etc- we can do the same for our schools.

If- in Newtown- there had been the same level of security that we see daily at the Mahoning County Court House- those innocents would be alive today.

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51copstarkey(27 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Kurtw. You are helping make the guys point.

Our military, is not to be used as armed guards against our own people. Even if it is against nut jobs who do harm in schools. I know, you'll go on as some other sheeple are thinking, "Oh we should do this, Why spend the money on troops overseas in other countries" Ah, hate to tell you we are in a financial crisis here. so cant afford this. And our military is not the way to accomplish safeguarding our schools. Whats next, we guard everywhere in the U.S.like the places you spoke of? Hell, folks complain over the TSA at airports, you sure you want this? Again this would be another step like what a certain country did in the 1930's. Do you need to guess who this was?

Hence the point, Military members have been directed since day one not to make a statement such as this, not in a uniform. Retired or not. We are not political pieces to be used, party against party, or in any arena where we need to pick a side or appear to be. We only have 1 side, defending this country! I do not expect you to understand, but I do. I realized it everytime I watched the look in my families eyes as I boarded some bus to defend this country and thought this could be the last time I see them. We only serve this cause and we are willing to give our lives for it, period!

You also should keep in mind that the gunny, who is not stan no matter how much you think it is, IS deployed defending our freedom. He is in harms way right now. Take that stress and add in having to see someone blatantly disreguard thought into thier actions, and i definitly see his frustration. Do not make a statement for others, which is what Mr Skok inadvertantly did, without reguard to consequences of actions. Besides, to the folks here who have supported this fellow, have you followed his example? That was part of his "Point". I am going to say no.

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52Jesmartuc(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

It truly amazes me how active duty has desensitized you "naysayers" (someone with an aggressively negative attitude) so much that a debate over the "dress code" has broken out. It's OK...I get it.

What Jim is doing is not about any of that! It's about the children and only the children. It's about them feeling safe when they walk in the doors of their school each and every day.

Just stop for a moment and imagine the deep seated fear that must have been embedded in their poor little, innocent heads after what took place in CT!

You naysayers should be ashamed of yourselves!

My father was in the military for life, and any time he wore his uniforms, green or blue, I felt safe when he wore them! I had no clue whether or not he was wearing the right socks, the right tee shirt or if his boots were shiny enough! It didn't matter.

One thing I do know is Jim is a man of God. He answered a call from God to go and put the children at ease. He earned the right to bust out that uniform and he would jump in front of a bullet to save any one of those children.

So please, get over yourselves. I would be embarrassed if I were you.

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53kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

My point was that school's should be given the same level of security as our Courthouses and Libraries. Try going into the Mahoning County Courthouse and shooting up the place. What you find are armed guards at the entrance with a metal detector. It's not impossible for a deranged shooter to get in- but it's damn hard.

We should provide at least the same level of security for our children as we do our Judges and Shysters (excuse the expression- I meant to say "lawyers").

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54Atown88(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I always use Courtview 2000 Mahoning County, Ohio to check on people because it's public information and easily searchable, and I then decide if I think it's appropriate for that person to be around kids.

I have no idea about this guy, he seems well-intentioned and simply concerned about the children, but if I had kids there I would do my own check and then decide what I was comfortable with. It sounds as if he has lived abroad, so it may be unproductive, but a good tool in general.

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55kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

It would need a little research on my part (which I plan to do) but my impression is that most or all of the mass shootings we've had the last few years have been in "gun-free" zones- where the shooters knew they could go in and be completely unopposed.

If the Newtown School had been adequately secured- guarded entrance, armed police, etc.- it's highly unlikely that an armed shooter would have gotten through.

That's my point in these posts. Secure the schools in exactly the same way we secure our Courthouses. The expense would be minimal- it could be part made part of the Levy for Safety Forces. I would vote for it- I think most people would (or it could be made a State or Federal responsibility- those are issues that would have to be decided by the voters).

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56oldparent(3 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Mr. Skok,

If you are such a noble human being and they had a "background" check done on you, it must not have been done through Mahoning County Courts. You were charged with domestic violence charges in 2008 and and DUI soon after that and you are protecting our children. Ha - I believe Gunny is correct in assuming you are not who you say you are!!!

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57Marineskok(7 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

They did a background check, plus looked at other background checks, I was honorably discharged from the Marines after 18 years. Their's the truth and whole truth, if you see on the court view 2000 Mahoning county, both were canceled and wrong. I don't have to explain to anyone except the board of education and my boss, that's with me everyday. I laugh at immature childish adults that put some of these negative comments, while hiding behind their crap, like a bunch of cowards. Grow up, I'm a volunteer and never did need a background check, but did it anyway! Semper Fi "Do or Die!" SSgt Skok

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58parent1(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

My kids went to Watson and it has always been known for the best elementary school in Austintown, but I have to say now I am glad my children are not there. Who in their right mind would allow Mr. Skok to walk the halls and let this be someone our kids look up to and feel protected? And even if you do not know of him, let us just look at the evidence...I am by no means good at writing or some smart or logical person that can argue a debate, but I do know a little military! How can anyone of you begin to defend something you do not know about and how can anyone say that a uniform is not the point? I would not go put on a cop uniform and pretend to be someone. That is an insult to every man and woman that served for us. You have no idea what these people go through and their families, I do not care if you do not know the military, use your sense! To the Gunny, you definitely know your stuff and to whom I know very well and who is very high up in the military and has more years than anyone has quoted on here...she says Good Job. I no after going through deployments myself that you do have time to go on here especially for something you feel so strong about and something so wrong being done; you are doing your job as a Marine and Thank You for serving our country. If people had any idea about the military, you would know the technology that these guys are lucky to have at times! I see the people that mention the uniforms have no idea what they are talking about and honestly when I asked all my military buddies(as it was said) Is that Skok should be reported, especially because you do not even know how to wear them, or did you forget? This is an embarrassment to you and the school. Now if you are truly just doing this out of the kindness of your heart and the kids....Why all of this and why the uniform? I do not know about anyone else, but who would feel safe with a supposed Marine (who I heard was just a cook and that can explain why after 18yrs you were just a sergeant and I would love to hear what really happened) to be protecting my child with a hurt back, which mind you has to go home at lunch sometimes to lay down (which if your there all day who is protecting while you nap?) and walkie talkies?

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59parent1(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

This is the most hilarious thing I have ever heard. Are you asking for people to come there? What about the other schools and other kids? How do we know a distraught person or parent does not come in and yelling starts and you could have PTSD and it could trigger you and something bad happens for no reason? Have you thought of the fear you are putting in these kids psychologically down the road from now, like if your plan fails and they have to move up in grades to a different school and they have no Mr. Skok there? Bad things happen in our world and it is very very unfortunate and yes we need to protect our kids and make them feel safe, but this is defiantly not the way. Our kids school have lock down drills and discuss it on numerous levels and they have locked doors with buzzards, but let us be honest a gun can get through anything and especially a person, but can that person make it worse or add to the crime instead of helping? As for the background check, I was going to post that last week, that is funny because it is public knowledge and if it was thrown out or not correct, WHY is it still on your record than? Also as for the 18yr thing I can remember a few years back, which according to your time lines of the military, having heard you were out at the bars every weekend and I no they do not have a military base where you would have been stationed in Youngstown...Just Saying before you think to go in the paper looking like a hero have all your facts straight because people will call you on everything! Sorry, but there is nothing more agitating then someone pretending to be someone they are not and other people falling for it because they just do not no!

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60Marineskok(7 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I gave all my paperwork, DD214, certificates, awards, military schools, and classes to the board of education. You are welcome that I protected your freedoms, even your freedom of speech, for many years. Anyone with common sense in security knows uniform personel is a deterrent to anyone thinking of doing something stupid. I defused a few cases of strange, angry, and suspicions activity in and around the school already. My presense was enough to calm the situation down, to act like adults and talk. That's the problem with parents and community, if its quiet, then everything is ok, get involved and help out! See how different it is, how hard the teacher and staff work everyday. I have a few issues of school security which is classified and higher ups are dealing with them. So I'm volunteering my time because my daughter asked me too, doing something proactive, then just staying home. God Bless America!

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61kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

The only way to secure a building is with armed professionals the way it's done at the Mahoning County Courthouse and other Government Buildings. An unarmed ex-marine- no matter how noble his intentions- is not the right approach.

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62judimcbry(11 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I had debated on weighing in since I first heard about this. Its admirable to volunteer your time and be concerned about student safety. Ive spent a great deal of time in the schools and there are never enough people. But... it is completely inappropriate for a former/retired military to wear a uniform in this manner. Its not about bean counting. Gunny and starky have both tried to explain but its seems few want to hear. Skok has stated on here that hes making a point by wearing it. So out of his own mouth hes politicizing the uniform. Using the USMC uniform to make his point, push his agenda.
I don't blame Sheila or Vince for not understanding how offensive this would be. But they should have asked in the appropriate channels.
Mr Skok - I don't think anyone said you shouldn't be there. But as anyone should know, but especially a former Marine - you are PROHIBITED from wearing a uniform except at memorials, funerals, parades and Veterans events.
Did not the Sgt Major of the USMC in December state that he understands wanting to protect children, but no one should wear the uniform outside regs.
Seeing how combatively you reacted to people who have pointed this out is what concerns me most of all.

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63kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

for: judimbry
Re: "prohibited from wearing uniform..."

I think you have it right. An ex-serviceman- no matter how noble his intentions may be- shouldn't be patrolling our schools. He's an un-armed amateur, let's face it. We need increased security in schools, but that should be handled by professionals- the police.

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64PAPPY(14 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Don't like a marine in school, its like owning a pit bull, you never know when they will turn on you. Just another marine incident in the news killing a fellow soldier. God love marines but they sure are different.

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65kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

for: Pappy

Re: marines like "pit bulls".

I read your post in the morning and I have been cogitating all day to come up with a single word to describe it.

I came up with two: "despicable" and "stupid".

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66DNA654(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Has the school district done a BCI check on retired Marine Staff Sgt. James Skok?

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67Bigpapi(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

I guess not. Haha so funny the marine just started the process to expunge his criminal past on mahoning county integrated web site. He didn't know anybody could look it up

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68kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

So, if he has a criminal past, why don't you tell us what it is? You obviously have some knowledge, so why not share it- rather than relying on innuendo.

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69redmed29(2 comments)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

WOW! I am completely shocked at all of the negative comments! My children attend Austintown schools, and my daughter attends Watson. I was suprised to see Marine Skok upon entering the school, in a great way! I had actually contemplated home-schooling after Sandy Hook, just so the stress of wondering what might happen at my children's school every day wouldn't kill me. Marine Skok gave my heart relief, knowing he was standing post, in the same way I feel relief knowing good military men & women stand post for our country! How dare anyone knock him for doing so, and actually blast him for not dressing to "regulation!" He is retired, and providing this service for our children, our loved ones, and our community! Only another marine would know he isn't dressed to code. Us "civilains" could care less what he wears! What are you doing for the children since Sandy Hook or the many other tragedies that have occured right here in the USA.? Did you put on your military uniform to code or even your civilian uniform and stand post at a school, a movie theater, or anywhere??? I do believe that Marine Skok should receive compensation for his service! I proudly support our active military and our veterans, and I am saddened that so many veterans would run their mouths about another veteran doing something good right here! While you were checking on Marine Skok, did you happen to check how many pedophiles live within this area?? That is what is disgusting! Our highschool has a police officer stand post, why not our middle and elementary school?! Obviously, the cost to have a police officer at our other schools is not worth the safety of our children! GOD BLESS HIM!!! Like I say to EVERY man & woman who serves this country, THANK YOU MARINE SKOK!!! KEEP DOING YOU!

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70marinesgt325(1 comment)posted 1 year, 8 months ago

Gunny,
I'm with you brother. I would question anyone who claims to be a Marine if they can't even get their uniforms squared away. Any Marine who gave half a sh*t, especially someone who claims to be a SSgt, would never go out in their utilities for something like this, looking like that.

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