Students throughout Lehighton Area School District took time on Friday to honor our nation's veterans.
Members of "The Greatest Generation," veterans Frank W. Maresca and Roy Minnerly, shared their World War II experiences with students at Lehighton Area High School. Both men fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Maresca, a member of the 75th Infantry Division, said, "Our freedom is not free. It never was and never will be." A member of the 41st Tank Battalion of the 11th Armored Division, Minnerly reflected, "The atrocities of World War II – we hope they never happen again."
Both Maresca and Minnerly were honored last month in Washington, D.C. when they were appointed "Chevaliers" of the Legion of Honor. President Sarkozy of France acknowledged the two veterans for their "personal and precious contribution to the United States' decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II."
The Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 "to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of great merit."
According to LAHS Social Studies Department Chair Leon Brong, "This is the the 12th year that we have been bringing local veterans of the Battle of the Bulge to speak to our students." The presentation is a coordinated effort of the entire Social Studies Department.
With the informal smaller group setting, students were able to ask questions and view the personal memorabilia of the veterans. The talk was followed by a special certificate presentation to the two veterans and a luncheon.
Students at Lehighton Area Middle School presented a USO-style radio show "airing live on November 11, 1942" entitled "Armistice Day." Veterans from throughout the Carbon County area were invited to the morning show free of charge. Life Skills students welcomed the veterans and their families to the show.
Opening the show, LAMS Principal Dr. Mark McGalla recalled the words of President John F. Kennedy – "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
Later that afternoon, the show was presented to the entire student body. Art and Drama teacher Molly Phillips directed the show.
LAMS Assistant Principal Michael DeAngelo said, "We are very proud to honor our vets – especially since it was the students who wanted to do this." "They have been working hard on this show for weeks," he continued.
Mahoning Elementary School held a school-wide program with songs and poems. According to Elementary Principal Aaron Sebelin, "I want children to understand how important it is to be appreciative of our veterans in that they gave their time – and, in some cases, their lives – to insure our freedoms."
At the Shull-David Elementary School assembly, Sebelin asked questions such as "Who do Americans honor on Veterans Day? … Who is a veteran? … Why should we honor veterans on Veterans Day? … etc." Some fourth grade students provided the answers to these questions for the student body.
In addition, Head Teacher Lisa Schatz presented a clip from Blue Ridge Communications TV-13 showing students from the school helping to load a truck with the 278 pairs of shoes that Shull-David collected for the "Let them walk in our shoes" program – as well as the faculty donation for the shipping charges.
Second Grade Teacher Jan Wentz discussed the "Trees for Troops" program, which benefits veterans and their families to "enhance the Christmas Spirit." Partnering with Yenser's Tree Farm, Shull-David students are being asked to donate change for the program through Thanksgiving. Families are also invited to donate trees. For more information about the program, visit www.TreesforTroops.org http://www.treesfortroops.org/ .
Fourth grade students read "They Did Their Share" by poet Joanna Fuchs.
LAHS Interim Assistant Principal and Air Force veteran Stephen Ebbert talked to the Shull-David students about the history and meaning of Veterans Day. "As an educator, it is important that our nation's youth understand the great sacrifices that have been made to ensure the freedoms that they enjoy," said Ebbert. "As a veteran, I am pleased to see the attentiveness of our students and how the teachers have committed to continually honoring our veterans. The teachers' commitment to Veterans Day is admirable."
At 11 a.m., the students, faculty, and staff observed a moment of silence.
Students at East Penn and Franklin Elementary Schools marked the holiday by making poppies, reading stories about Veterans Day, and creating cards to be sent to deployed soldiers. Charles Fritz, an army veteran of the Korean War, spoke to the fourth grade class at Franklin.
"I think it's important for students to know about Veterans Day and understand the importance of thanking our veterans for our freedom – not just on Veterans Day, but every day," said Elementary Principal Gretchen Laviolette.
On November 11, 1918 at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month," an armistice was declared for World War I – "the war to end all wars"
Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time exactly one year later – November 11, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the day should be "filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory." There were parades, public meetings, and a brief suspension of business activities at 11 a.m.
On June 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law which established the fourth Monday in October as the new date for the observance of Veterans Day. It was held on this day from 1971 through 1977. The Federal observance of Veterans Day reverted back to November 11 in 1978.