Legion Posts, Newbury Schools Honor Veterans
Two local posts, various speakers hold Veterans Day celebration
More than 100 students, at least a dozen teachers, two local American Legion posts and one big reason for coming together at the Newbury Elementary School auditorium on a chilly, damp Monday morning — to honor veterans and service members, past and present.
Members of Burton’s Atwood-Mauck American Legion Post 459 and Newbury’s American Legion Post 663 came together and presented a Veterans Day service Monday for Newbury sixth- through 12th-graders.
The event is an annual Black Knight tradition, said Newbury American Legion Post Commander Ken Hunter.
Hunter said the event, run by high school social studies teacher Robert Michael, began about a decade ago by Superintendent Dick Wagner and now-retired teacher Robert Johnson.
Originally, the event consisted of veterans speaking to students in classrooms, but its popularity helped it grow into an hour-long service in the auditorium, Hunter said.
Michael, who has headed it the last five years or so, said he was proud to be part of the effort.
“It’s just great honoring those who served,” Michael said. “It really expanded from when we started it. We have many rights. Such as the right to due process, the right to equal representation and economic freedom without governmental interference. But we have those rights because of the men and women who serve in the military.”
He added, “It’s an honor to be on this stage with these veterans who have given everything in service to America.”
Students Jonah Hamby and Mak Sanders read the history of Veterans Day — originally known as Armistice Day after the end of World War I in 1918.
At one point, Veterans Day was celebrated the fourth Monday of October, starting in the late 1960s. But Congress reverted the celebration to the traditional Nov. 11 date in 1978, the students said.
Steve Deardowski, a U.S. Army military policeman serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, told students about the benefits of serving in the military, such as the camaraderie, college education and life experience it brings.
“When we toppled the Saddam statue at the start of the campaign in 2003, the Iraqis welcomed us with open arms,” Deardowski said, adding his unit helped train Iraqi military police and helped apprehend criminals.
He said frequent mortar attacks were a key danger, as were regular patrols and responding to raids.
After he returned from Iraq, he was able to achieve a bachelor’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University and even trained military police in Germany.
He said 2,444 soldiers in the 18- to 22-year-old age group have passed away since the War on Terror began.
“I’m not asking you to grieve for them,” Deardowski said of the fallen soldiers. “I’m asking you to serve, whether it be in the military or even in your community.”
Burton American Legion member Charles “Skip” Boehnlein walked the students through his travels as an Air Force member. During his stint in the Air Force, from 1968 to 1975, he had tours of duty ranging from Illinois, Thailand, Missouri and Spain.
“Anyways, I was in Alaska and they gave me cold-weather gear,” Boehnlein added. “However, I was ordered to Thailand soon afterwards, so all my gear — even the cold-weather gear — came with me.”
The students laughed, but turned serious after Boehnlein gave advice to those considering military service. About a third of the crowd raised their hands when asked if they were considering the service as a career option.
“If you go in the military, know you are not alone. Wherever you are, your friends and fellow soldiers are going through the same trials you are,” he said. “When you take the oath, you are telling the world, ‘You will give up everything in order to defend your country and its way of life.’”
At the end of the ceremony, the color guard closed, accompanied by Wagner — hidden behind a curtain — who played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
High School Principal Michelle Mrakovich dismissed the students, but not before spontaneous applause for veterans broke out.
Afterwards, students mingled with the veterans and asked them questions.
Sixth-grade teacher Barb Kachler said she was proud of her students for showing interest in the military and said they enjoyed the event.
“I’m proud of my students and I’m proud of those who serve us in the military,” she said.
More online: Wagner plays Amazing Grace, plus highlights.
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