Honoring Malvern’s Service Members

This year as Malvern remembered and reflected on 9/11, we look to honor some of our brotherhood who answered the call to serve our nation in the armed forces.

Aidan Naughton, Editor-in-Chief

This year, as the nation remembered 9/11, It is important to honor a few members of our own community who joined the military to protect our country and its citizens. 


Hunter Jones ‘92

With 24 years of service under his belt, Hunter Jones recalled the moment he decided he wanted to join the U.S Naval Academy.


“My second cousin lives out in California and being in California we don’t see that side of our family too often. When I was growing up, I was about 11 years old, Michigan State was playing USC in the Rose Bowl out in Pasadena. So we went out there as a family, the four of us my mom and dad, my brother and I, and since that side of the family lives in California, we don’t see him often and we got together with him and, and had dinner and all sorts of dinner table for the huge table like 20 of us or whatever and I noticed this ring on my cousin’s hand and I said ‘Hey, can I see that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, sure’. So he took it off, handed it to me and it was a US Naval Academy ring. So I looked at it, I was like 11 years old and I’m like, ‘Hey that’s pretty cool. I want one of those. What do I need to do to get one?’ and he’s like, ‘Hey, well you got to go to the Naval Academy’ and he’s indulging me as a 11 year old kid. I’m asking him those questions. He’s telling me about the school at dinner and he said, ‘I’ve got a book at home, once we go out for dinner, we’ll go home, I’ll show you this book, and when you are getting more questions, you’ll let me know.’ So we met back at his house and it’s a little coffee table book, a US Naval Academy coffee table book, and he hands it to me and so I read through the whole thing and, for like an hour and a half or whatever, I’m reading it and just looking at it and stuff. After I got done, I put it back down on the table and I was like, that’s where I’m going to school.”


Courtesy: H. Jones

During his time at Malvern, Jones was involved with lacrosse and was the captain of both the football and wrestling teams. He believes that coaches Gamp Pellegrini, Bruce Kennett, and Anthony Verna, the football, wrestling and lacrosse coaches, respectively, all helped him develop leadership skills and paved the way for him to attend the United States Naval Academy. Jones spoke about the leadership skills he developed and how they translated into military service. 

“Whenever you go to an academy or a ROTC program, your job as an officer is to be a leader, and in order to lead you got to learn to follow first and that’s one of the first things that you learn there as as your first year going as a quote unquote plebe. You do the PT, the boot camp, the boot camp equivalent for prep school, you learn to be a follower first, before you become a leader…so, just in all the leadership aspects that I had as a captain all that stuff directly correlated to my military service and I look back in my 24 plus years in uniform and I look back at all hard times when I had tough times, losing troops in combat, and losing troops to suicide after they came back home. Two of our troops committed suicide, like that’s hard, but I look back at my time as an athlete and my leadership to get myself and my troops through those tough times.” 


After his service, Mr. Jones recently continued to serve by coaching football at Conestoga high school which he sees as another opportunity to make an impact on others. 


“I firmly believe athletics teaches you life lessons and it molds leaders and that’s one of the reasons why I coach now because even though I took the uniform off my opportunity to coach is my quote, unquote, community service. I’m still serving. Even though I’m not wearing a uniform, I’m still serving my community by teaching these kids, [by] coaching lacrosse or football, life lessons and building future leaders for our country because it’s so important and I think sports are paramount. We are fighting, tuning, building leadership skills amongst other perishable skills to live by”


In his 24 years of service, Mr. Jones commanded the largest OSI (Office of Special Investigation) detachment in the middle east during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March of 2003, earned his second master’s degree at Maxwell Air Force Base, and took command of Bagram Airfield during the Enduring Freedom Campaign where he coordinated with Direct Action units, SEAL and SOF teams, International Special Operation teams to capture and kill 58 insurgents and neutralize inside, IED, and mortar threats around the Bagram Airbase. 


Mr. Jones currently has two sons enrolled at Malvern Prep, Hunter Jones ‘23 and Heath Jones ‘25, learning the same values that he found so beneficial.  


Matt Cornell ‘13

Courtesy: M. Cornell

Malvern alum and blackhawk pilot Matt Cornell graduated from the University of South Carolina’s ROTC program as an Aviation Officer in December 2017. From there Matt graduated flight school to become a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot in April 2019. He was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2020 and was a flight platoon leader in charge of VIP operations and air movements of passengers and equipment across Afghanistan. Over his 11-month deployment, he accrued over 600 flight hours and upon his return moved to an aviation maintenance support company as an Executive Officer with over 400 soldiers in his care. 


When reflecting on his time at Malvern prior to the armed forces, Cornell only had positive things to say about the school.


“My time at Malvern is something I’ll never forget. The friendships I built in high school are still some of my closest friends to this day. The sports I played (rugby, water polo, swimming and lacrosse) helped me learn how to work as a team. The extracurriculars that I participated in, particularly ceramics, gave me a skill and hobby that I still use to this day to take a break from the stress that can build while working in the military.” 

Alumni and Space Force Captain Andy Johnson '13 with Cornell in Colorado
Courtesy: M. Cornell

The idea to serve his country, as a member of the military, came to the forefront of Cornell’s mind his junior year at Malvern. His mentors at the time had a strong influence on his direction.  


“I always felt like I had a calling to serve in some capacity. I wasn’t quite sure what that was until my Junior year at Malvern when the upperclassmen I had been teammates with had put the thought in my mind and Villa Maria Diving coach Steve Curlee got in my ear about the Naval Academy. Eventually the path would change and I would join the Army ROTC program my Sophomore year of college but the thought of joining the military entered my mind going into junior year at Malvern and I never looked back from achieving that goal.”  Cornell highlighted, like many other service members, the idea of being a “servant leader” and how Malvern helped him become that kind of leader.


“The general leadership skills learned at Malvern helped prepare me and mold my leadership style that would set the foundation for the leader I am today. The idea of “servant leadership” is a word tossed around in the Army but I feel as though Malvern actually prepared me to truly utilize this type of leadership everyday” He said. 


Jerome Reitano ‘01


When asked if he ever considered a career in the military, Malvern Alumni Jerome Reitano said he never felt the calling until one day at Malvern, his junior year. 


“I never really considered it. It was never really serious until probably my junior year at Malvern. They hosted a career day and they had just multiple people in different career fields, just briefing in different classes and one of the individuals there was an instructor at United States Military Academy at West Point, which is the army service academy. I remember it vividly. He was in his dress uniform and he started talking about the experience at West Point and the school, and then what it meant to serve and the options that he had and the abilities that he had as an army officer and I remember going back and talking with my family and saying, ‘Hey, this is something that I really want to be a part of something as special as this.’ So that was really probably the thing that kind of took it from, just a little bit of an interest to maybe this could possibly be my career one day, and I was able to go visit the campus at West Point and absolutely fell in love with wanting to go to West Point and being an army officer and that was kind of my goal coming out of Malvern.” 


Mr. Reitano continued and told of how prepared he was to enter the military because of his education and the strong foundation Malvern provided. . 


“I absolutely 100% feel like it [Malvern] prepared me better than my peers.It is a high school education that is just really unmatched anywhere else. Whether it’s the care that the instructors and teachers give you the abilities to be young men. I was a MECO leader. I was a captain of the hockey team. I played water polo. I [was] really immersed in a team. Leadership was a big thing that always pushed at Malvern. [Malvern was] service-oriented. I did the National Service Corps back in the day as well. So all that stuff translates very well into selfless service.” 


Reitano went to Merrimack for his freshman year of college but transferred out of the college after 9/11 to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.


“That year was 911. So that’s September when I was up in Merrimack. That’s when the World Trade Centers fell. I mean, I remember going to class that day as a freshman in college and I called my parents and I said, ‘I gotta go like, I got to do something.’ So I transferred down to school in Florida for my second year where they had an ROTC program, and I immediately started there. So four years later I graduated from that school, It’s actually the school I am teaching there right now, and I went into the aviation branch of the United States Army. So I got trained on how to fly helicopters and ended up being qualified as a CH 47 Chinook pilot, which was kind of cool because my dad worked for Boeing. In Pennsylvania there, in Ridley Park where they build the Chinook.” 


His service took him to Texas, Afghanistan, Virginia, North Carolina and Korea for two years during COVID as a part of his MIlitary Intelligence position as a fixed wing aviator. Now Reitano’s career has come full circle with him commanding the same ROTC program he was a part of at the beginning of his service. 


“I’m actually the commander of the ROTC unit that I went to college with 20 years ago. So when I was a cadet there was always a lieutenant colonel that was in charge of the program. So now I’m that Lieutenant Colonel and I got about 300 cadets that want to be army officers kind of follow in my footsteps. So it’s a really cool, full circle story.” He said.


When asked about Imparting some advice for Malvern Friars looking to join the military, Reitano said, 


“The military in general is a great way to serve and service at Malvern is a huge facet of what we follow, the Augustinian values. I definitely think it has a direct correlation and translation to the personalities of a lot of the individuals there [in the military]. You get the ability to lead some of the finest men and women in the country.”


All the alumni service members interviewed highlight how vital Augustian values are in even the most difficult and dangerous careers. The lessons instilled in these men have helped them better serve our nation and exemplify these values both here and abroad.