Eleven veterans were honored guests at the Chester Academy, which showed its appreciation with a special celebration held Nov. 8 at the school
The Chester Academy band, under the direction of Deborah Hyseni, performed “The Star Spangled Banner” and the “Armed Forces Medley.” Student Brian Connell, representing the Civil Air Patrol Cadets, presented the colors. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by student government representative Michaela Dicurcio.
U.S. Navy veteran Rob Bowen, from Farmers Insurance in Chester, introduced the featured speaker, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus.
Students from Mrs. Dayanara Garcia’s creative writing class read a poem written by Mrs. Garcia for the veterans, while middle school students from Mrs. Christine Sisco’s eighth-grade social studies classes wrote and delivered thank you cards to the veterans.
Neuhaus told the assembly that 200 people from Orange County served with him in Iraq. He said he had it easier than vets from past wars, since he was able to Facetime with his family daily. He expressed gratitude for the letters and packages from family, friends, and strangers, and urged students to write to servicemen and -women overseas.
“When you get letters, it means a lot,” he said.
Barry Schnipper served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam.
“Veterans Day to me, is not a solemn holiday, but it’s a joyous holiday where the whole community gathers ‘round to thank the veterans for enjoying the freedoms they have today, versus Memorial Day, which is a very solemn holiday. Veterans Day is a very happy holiday,” he said. “We thank everybody who did their job to allow us to have this assembly. It means so much to me that people still recognize the military for what it is: it’s a force of good, it’s not a force of evil. It’s a force of good.”
A joyous holiday
Jim Scali served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969.
“This is what it’s all about as far as veterans are concerned," he said. "To be recognized for our service to our country is of the utmost importance to us. We came home from the Vietnam War — a terrible time in this country. There was a lot of unrest, and we weren’t treated with the respect that we were due. And we’re getting it now through the future of our country. These young kids are the strongest and the greatest, and we are so happy to see them acknowledge our sacrifices. It’s a wonderful thing to see.”
People worth defending
Jonathan Winaker served eight years as a US Marine and eight years in the National Guard. “In addition to the veterans who are here and I’ve known for several years now, I think it’s important that the kids recognize not just the veterans,” he said. “I think it’s important that the veterans recognize everybody here for being people worth defending and worth sacrificing for; that they are worth protecting and defending. It’s not just what the veterans have done.”
Kids celebrate veterans
James Donato is the school security officer. He served in the U.S. Navy for 12 and a half years.
“Today, it gives me validation for what I did for the country, to see the kids celebrating the veterans in the manner that they do,” he said. “It makes me proud to continue to be able to protect them and to provide them a service, knowing they acknowledge the veterans and the sacrifices that they made.”