C.J. Hooker Middle School students surprised school nurse Dawn Pawliczak’s father, Frederick Kohler, a U.S. Navy Korean War veteran, with a batch of handmade cards and heartfelt notes this Veterans Day.
“Thank you for serving our country and protecting us,” wrote seventh-grader Julianna Loftus.
“Thank you for your bravery and service,” wrote another seventh-grader, Brooke Florio. “Thank you for helping to protect us.”
According to the school district, Kohler read the cards while on a surprise honor flight to Washington, D.C.
“My father read each and every one of the letters and cards, and was so touched by the kind, sincere sentiments of the students,” said Pawliczak.
Kohler’s flight was sponsored by Hudson Valley Honor Flight, local hub of the nonprofit National Honor Flight Network – an organization that honors American veterans for their sacrifices by transporting them to the nation’s capital to visit their memorials at no cost to them.
The navy veteran served on the admiral’s staff aboard the USS Leyte, one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during and shortly after WW II. He also served aboard the USS Tarawa, an amphibious assault ship used from 1976 through 2009.
“What an amazing group of kids,” Kohler said. “I will never forget this. These are my treasures.”
Pawliczak’s son, Goshen High School junior Ethan Pawliczak, went to the airport to greet his grandfather with large handmade signs when he returned from the flight.
“I wanted to be there to support all of the veterans, especially my grandfather, Fred Kohler, who fought for our country and gave so much so we can enjoy our freedoms and liberties,” Ethan said. “They deserve our thanks, our support, and our respect.”
Ethan’s best friend Patrick Cahill joined him to welcome back the veterans.
“It’s important to remember veterans, all they did for our country and what they were willing to sacrifice,” said Cahill. “It’s important to give them the recognition they deserve.”