Vets, patriotism center stage at Ford City school
State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, ditched the Veterans Day speech he had planned to deliver to students at Divine Redeemer School in Ford City on Monday.
“I don’t need to make that speech. I can see they are very educated and that the teachers have done a fine job teaching them about what veterans have done,” White said. “The patriotism I sense in this room is palpable.”
White served in the Army during the 1970s. He praised the 16 other servicemen and women seated beside him who served during wartime.
“I never had a bullet aimed at me — I was one of the lucky ones. A lot of these guys have, and I’m grateful to them,” he said. “I’m proud to be a veteran, and I’m proud to have served.”
Many of the students — from kindergarten through sixth grade — took turns asking questions of the veterans. Was anyone drafted? Was it hard? Several veterans raised their hands at the first question, and many nodded at the second.
A few veterans wiped their eyes when a small girl raised her hand and asked what it felt like to lose a friend in combat.
“It’s tough,” said Army veteran Frank McCauley, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His 5-year-old son, Kayven, sat with the rest of his kindergarten class as he spoke about his friend who was killed by a bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan.
“I think about him every day,” McCauley said.
Present at the event were members of the Armstrong County Honor Guard, who demonstrated the twelve steps for folding the U.S. flag. Students in the chorus sang and were joined by veterans singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a selection of patriotic songs.
Students presented veterans with miniature parachutes of candy after a presentation about Col. Gail S. “Hal” Halvorsen, a U.S. pilot who repeatedly dropped packages of candy to children in Berlin, Germany, in the late 1940s when World War II had ended.
Members of the military like Halvorsen — who gained international acclaim — as well as the veterans who were present at the school event Monday, are heroes, Chuck Righi said.
Righi, a Vietnam veteran, is the Armstrong County director of Veterans Affairs.
“These are the heroes,” he said, looking over at the rows of seated veterans. “Children need people to look up to now. They need to know they can be that type of man or woman — to reach inside and be the best they can be.”
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.