Riders host local veterans

ST. MARYS — Local middle school students took a period out of their school day to thank those who have served their country.

On Friday, St. Marys Middle School students invited local veterans to participate in a Veterans Day event.

Principal Mary Miller kicked off the event, thanking everyone who came to the school and participated in the assembly.

“We have as honored guests this morning over 100 veterans who have joined students and friends and family members today to share a breakfast and then to join us today for this assembly,” she said. “We have several goals this morning. Our first goal is really the same goal that we share with everyone across the country today on Veterans Day, and that is to honor our veterans for their service and thanking them for what they’ve done for our country. We also have a second goal because we are an educational building and that’s our job to educate, and our second goal is to help our students to understand the debt we owe our veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made for us.”

She noted the importance of the young students learning about the veterans’ experiences.

“When you are 12, 13 or 14-years-old, it is not always easy to understand the sacrifices made by veterans to leave your home, your family, your communities and to commit yourself to being of service to your country,” she said.

“We’re working towards understanding that, but I know for myself as a young person I didn’t always understand that. There was a special person who helped me to grow and to learn more about that, and that was my father.”

Miller noted her father hitchhiked to the nearest town on his 18th birthday and signed up to join the U.S. Air Force.

“He went through basic training, and he was supposed to ship out and go to Hawaii and on the night before they left, they came and said, ‘Change of plans, you’re all going to Germany.’ When he gets there, he’s trained as a radio operator, and he eventually ends up on a plane in the Berlin Airlift that is taking coal across Berlin. I know this because I spent time talking with him and listening to him tell me about that.”

Miller said her father was not at St. Marys Middle School on Friday — he was with her children at New Knoxville School for their Veterans Day event.

“He is sitting with my children and he is sharing Veterans Day with them, and he is helping them like he helped me, helping them to understand the sacrifices he made for our country and really for other people around the world,” she said, adding her father would stop by the middle school later that day.

“And I will thank him for the very same things I thank you all for. I thank you for the service you gave to your country. I thank you for serving people around the world, and today I also thank you for helping our young people to understand the importance of your sacrifices and what you’ve done for us, so thank you very much and we are honored to have you.”

State Rep. John Adams also addressed the students during their assembly. Adams is also a former Navy SEAL.

“Today all Ohioans will have the opportunity to pay special tribute to our men in women in uniform who have served in the U.S. military,” Adams said. “Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11 each year and is an opportunity to honor the nearly 915,000 veterans who currently live in Ohio.”

He noted the history of Veterans Day and how it became a holiday to honor all American veterans who served in the military during war or peacetime.

“This Veterans Day, the annual wreath-laying cemetery will take place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery,” Adams said. “Many people in our community will proudly fly their stars and stripes in front of their homes to signify the unwavering resilience of the American spirit, as well as the freedoms that so many service members have died protecting.”

Adams also thanked the veterans sitting in the auditorium.

“To you the veterans, thank you for your service to our country, its people and our freedom,” he said. “It is because of you and the countless others who have served that we are able to enjoy the quality of life in which we all hold so dear. As a former Navy SEAL, I stand with you now as the freedom we now enjoy seems to be under a new attack almost every day.”

Adams stressed the feeling of patriotism in our country.

“Since 9/11, the American psyche has changed,” he said. “I no longer see the intensity of our flags displayed in our vehicles, homes or places of business. We all get caught up in our daily lives and forget those on foreign soil. Many have forgotten our closeness as a nation during that period of time and forget why we are at war today. Display your flags, display them proudly, display them everywhere you can. I do, it is my duty to do so, and it is your duty to do so.”

Next, Thomas Zhang and Erika Angstmann read their Patriot Pen essays, followed by Lavern Pax, an alumnus of St. Marys Memorial High School, who gave a summary of his experience serving as a Guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Pax guided attendees through pictures of his time serving as a Guard from April 1957 to October 1958.

“I want to thank each and every one of you for serving our country, I really appreciate that,” Pax said. “Every time I go back to Arlington National Cemetery, I try to go back once every year, it really makes tears in my eyes. I see all these people who died, men and women who gave their lives for us, thinking of all the injuries of people who have permanent injuries ... I want to thank each and every one of you for serving our country.”

St. Marys Middle School students then had a dramatic reading of “America’s White Table,” a book by Margot Theis Raven that noted the tradition that began after the Vietnam War as a symbol for and remembrance to service members held prisoner of war or missing in action.

Students then presented the items they have collected and letters they wrote to give to men and women currently serving as part of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from St. Marys, who is training for deployment to Afghanistan. The students also were recognized by the branch in which they served, and the eighth-grade band performed a patriotic medley after the recognition.

Eighth-grade social studies teacher Bill Ruane, who coordinated the event, spoke last, thanking the veterans, who each wore a pin that was donated by St. Marys Middle School teacher Carol Katter in memory and in honor of her father, veteran Charles Mosler who served as an Army medic in the South Pacific during World War II.

“St. Marys Middle School would like to thank those who have served our country,” Ruane said. “Also, I would like to thank our staff and students for their contributions to today’s program.”v