More than 50 veterans and soldiers attended two Veterans Day assemblies at Winman Junior High School last Thursday, which featured a tribute video created by social studies teacher Anibal Raposo, patriotic songs by the concert choir and band, and readings by writing contest winners, whose subject was the importance of Veterans Day.
Eighth grader Jake Stachurski performed “Taps” on trumpet to begin both celebrations, while six seventh grade students asked about the impact of war and military life.
Bella Lingle asked what prompted them to enlist. Arnie Geller, a vice commander in the Coast Guard and also the secretary of the PTA at Winman, said his parents motivated him. In fact, they were in the Coast Guard, as well.
“When I was a younger teenager I was chomping at the bit and joined the day after I turned 18,” he said. “I was just waiting and waiting for the day and was finally happy when I became old enough.”
Ava Sheldon asked what they feel are the most important traits someone should have. Thomas Potter, a veteran of the Army National Guard, said, “Integrity, and love for your country and family.”
Jennifer Robinson asked if they think war is the best way to solve disagreements. Jerome Sanders, who served as a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, said that war is difficult to classify as right or wrong. He believes it should only be a last resort, when other measures are exhausted, or when the U.S. is threatened.
“I’ll speak for myself, but I think all these veterans would agree that going to war is not something that we want to do but something we were called to do,” said Sanders. “We stood up and said, ‘We’ll do it because our country is asking us to.’”
Adeline Lancellotta asked how they felt spending holidays without loved ones. Wilfred Royle, an electrician’s mate in the U.S. Navy in the Korean War, said it’s hard to put into words.
“We all missed our families,” he said.
Hannah Kelly asked them to discuss the hardest part of boot camp and being away from their families. U.S. Army Specialist Thomas Hooper said “actually being there” was tough.
“In my case, I was only about a four-hour drive from my family but in some cases you end up in California or in New Jersey and you don’t get to see your family,” he said.
There was one question that provided comic relief. James Burke asked, “What was the first thing you did when you came home from your deployment?” A veteran in the audience volunteered, “I drank a beer.”
After the seventh graders left the auditorium, eighth graders eagerly replaced them to expresse their gratitude.
“We appreciate them and love what they do for us,” said Sarah Egan.
Alexandra Corcoran agreed. She said, “Veterans really put us where we are today and give us what we have. If they didn’t fight for us, we would have nothing.”
Angel Maggio felt the same and said, “They put their lives on the line for us.”
Bradley Meunier said, “They protect us,” while Jessica Fernandez summed it up with, “It’s good to remember all the work they’ve done.”
The veterans and troops were impressed. Robert Bouthillier, who served in the Air Force as a senior master sergeant, thought it was a good opportunity for the children to get firsthand accounts.
“It’s great for the young people because they get to ask questions and get answers,” he said. “We inspire them.”
Royle said the presentation was positive for students to be shown what previous generations have done and good for the vets as well.
“We can see that all is not lost,” he said. “We still have a good following.”
Hooper, whose wife Arile is expecting their child in less than three weeks, said he will be home for the birth but there’s a chance he will be deployed in January. He said the schoolchildren motivate him to serve.
“I love it when kids appreciate what we do for them,” he said. “It gives me the courage to do what I do for the kids of the world.”
Students also took part in Operation Holiday Cheer to help support soldiers and their families with “care packages.”
They divided into teams to see who could collect the most products and “The Cyclones,” led by Raposo, were the victors.
“We have a truckload of items that will be delivered to the Armory in Providence by Mr. Raposo,” said History Department Head Thalia Wood.
Royle said it’s important to thank the teachers for the presentation, which was established six years ago by retired social studies department head Theresa Moran.
Essay winners included Rachel Paolantonio, Cameron Breard, Ryan Gray, Ariana Nahrgang, Taylor Dorsey, Celine Christensen and Margot Williams.
Social studies teacher Norman Bouthillier, who served in the Air Force, called each veteran’s name for a round of applause. They included Army members Anthony Nappa, Brian West, Eric Carlson, George Banno, Paul Bento, William Conners, Peter Horoschack, Walter Gray, John Virgilio, Joshua Flodin, James Moran, Leonard Wood, Frank Quagan, Gene Pina, Richard Swider, Frank Frenze and Vincent Ortez.
Navy members included David Nelson, Philip Hammer, Jack Anderson, Alan Abramson, Karen Allen McCormick, Edward Oliver, Dennis Quattrini, Robert Sorgi, Robert G. Theroux, Wesley Murray and James McVeigh.
Marines were Gerard Cournoyer, William Sangster, Ralph Potter, Robert Hebert, William Lagasse, Timothy Colt and Al Corrente.
The Air Force members were Curtis Matthews, John Stadnik, Gary Carpenter, Roland Stumpff, Stephen Chrabaszez, Richard DeLuca, Paul Payton and Janeen Miller of the Air National Guard.