Winman students reflect on sacrifice of military service, honor veterans


Michaela Lynch, 12, doesn’t think she would want to join the armed services.

She said Friday it would be difficult to be away from home for an extended time. On the other hand, the Winman Junior High School student said she would want to help the country if needed.

A year older, and also a student at Winman, Kyle Beatch is already thinking about going into the service. He is a Boy Scout and likes being part of a team.

“It would be a higher sense of honor for your country,” he said. Of the branches of service, he said the Army has the greatest appeal. And he would like to do something that would involve engineering or, perhaps, technology.

Michaela and Kyle and their classmates played roles in Friday’s Veterans Day Assembly. The event held every two years and coordinated by Social Sciences Department Chair Thalia Wood featured a program involving students, a video focusing on the homecoming of veterans, introduction of about 60 veterans and concluded with a reception in the school library.

Michaela read a poem she composed for her English class.

In it, she writes about what it takes for a service member to leave their family and how she cries when remembering how fortunate she feels to have soldiers fighting for the country.

“I dream that one day every nation will come together as one. I try to put myself in the place of one whose family is fighting for us. I hope every soldier can walk through the door of their home one day safe and sound,” she read.

Kyle played a lonely but no less important role. As the assembly started, Kyle waited for late arrivals outside the school office.

In the auditorium, veterans, many in uniform, sat among students and rose to be recognized when their names were read off.

James Loftin, 92, who served in the Navy during World War II and took part in the amphibious assault of North Africa, had to be the veteran among veterans.

And there was at least one father and son team of veterans.

Coincidently, they both served in Berlin but at opposite ends of the Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. Robert Bouthiller, retired Air Force Master Sergeant, was stationed in the city when the Soviets erected the Berlin wall. It was a tense time. Many attempting to escape were shot. Bouthiller’s son Norman, a teacher at Winman, was based in Berlin in 1989 when Berliners tore the wall down. It was a joyous occasion.

Norman’s job was to watch Russian troop movements with high-tech equipment. He’s been back since and the base, with its radar dishes and spy equipment, is long gone.

Bob Sorgi sat in the auditorium’s front row and had the moral support of his wife Maryann, daughter Deb Langevin and his granddaughter Abigail Langevin, a Winman student who played violin in the orchestra’s performance of patriotic music. Sorgi served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

“I saw everything,” he said, his eyes filling with tears. “Guys shot up like you wouldn’t believe.”

Sorgi shared his experiences with a reporter. It was doubtful he could have told the full audience about evacuating injured soldiers. It was too emotionally upsetting for him.

A question raised by students was whether any of the veterans had, like Sorgi, a difficult time sharing their experiences when they get home. It seemed like the question would go unanswered until Army veteran James Vible stood. He said he initially felt uncomfortable talking about his deployment to the Middle East.

“Wherever you go in the world, the kids are the same,” he said. He spoke of how children everywhere enjoy playing games and he told the students because nations are at war, that “doesn’t mean people are specifically bad.”

Toll Gate Principal Stephen Chrabaszcz Jr. sat silently. A Vietnam veteran, Chrabaszcz came to the assembly knowing he wouldn’t speak of it. Even now, the experience is that painful. But, like the other veterans, he was honored to have his service honored.


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