By Lisa Tetrault-Zhe
Hampton Union, Friday, November 12, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- The best way to celebrate Veterans Day is to thank someone who's served in the military. That was the message delivered by a group of veterans who visited Marston and Centre schools to commemorate Veterans Day on Wednesday.
"How many of you have people in your families who are serving or served in the military?" Marine veteran Ralph Fatello asked Centre School students. "If you can, call them on the phone, just to say thank you for serving our country. I guarantee you'll put a smile on their faces and you just might bring a tear to their eye."
At Marston, Fatello, who serves as commander of American Legion Post 35 in Hampton, thanked the students for honoring the veterans at the assembly.
He was accompanied by veterans representing most branches of the military. By coincidence, Wednesday was also the 235th birthday of the U.S. Marines. Fatello joked with the students that the date was burned into him while in boot camp.
In preparation for the program, students wrote essays on "What Veterans Day Means to Me." Music teacher Gus Carlson organized the assembly. He helped judge the essays and the winners read them to the veterans.
"This was their prize (for the best essay) — getting to read to you," Carlson told the veterans. "There was no candy bar or anything like that. When I announced who the winners were, you should have seen all of them hugging each other."
One winner, third-grade student Tess, said Veterans Day has a special meaning to her.
"My grandfather, who served in the Navy as a machinist starting in 1971, is what Veterans Day means to me," Tess said. "He served to keep our country safe."
Another winner, fifth-grade student Kayla, said she appreciates the sacrifices made by veterans.
"I appreciate all you have done for our world, protecting us and our freedom," Kayla said.
Other essay winners included third-grade students Gavin and Maggie, fourth-grade students Evan and Shelby, and fifth-graders Tianna, Emma, Kristiana and Shelly.
In addition to the essays, one fourth-grade student, Emily Copp, read a history of the holiday.
Copp formed a special bond with one of the veterans after last year's Memorial Day ceremony.
"We (the veterans) were saluting the flag, and I looked up in the crowd, and there was a girl saluting us," said Army veteran John Holman, who served in the Korean conflict. "We now are friends, and meet up in the library to talk."
Copp said she was saluting out of respect.
"Veterans Day means we appreciate those who are willing to fight for us, people they don't even know, to keep us safe," Copp said.
The entire school also performed the National Anthem and an armed services medley that included "The Army Goes Rolling Along," "Anchors Away (Navy)," "The Marines Hymn, Semper Partus" ("Always Ready" for the Coast Guard) and "Wild Blue Yonder (Air Force)." They ended the assembly with a thank-you song for the veterans.
At Centre School, Principal Tim Lannan led the students through the Pledge of Allegiance and told them that it's not just a day off from school, but a special holiday.
"Veterans Day is a day where we celebrate and honor those who have fought in war," Lannan said. "There are 24 million veterans in the world today. It's important that we honor them."
In addition to the assembly, held at the flagpole in front of the school at the end of the day, students also learned about veterans in their classrooms.
"At this early level, we are introducing what Veterans Day means," Lannan said. "As they get older, the ceremonies are more in depth. We did lessons on this in the classrooms as well as in the integrated arts."
In addition to Marston and Centre schools, there were Veterans Day events held at several other schools in the district, including Winnacunnet, Hampton Academy, North Hampton School and Sacred Heart School.
Fatello told Marston students that all the veterans were impressed with their gratitude.
"I speak on behalf of all of the veterans here today when I say it warms our hearts and souls to see how disciplined you are, how tuned in you are to what this day means," Fatello said.