Mrs. Susan Warakomski, a Towamensing Elementary School second grade teacher, thought the school should have some kind of program to honor veterans for this special year's date of 11/11/11.
"I thought it was a special time and needed to be acknowledged," says Mrs. Warakomski.
Mrs. Christine Steigerwalt, the school's principal agreed and asked her if she would coordinate such a program. With the help of Mrs. Darlene Broderidge, the school's librarian and Gifted And Talented Education (G.A.T.E.) program teacher and Ms. Natalie Dize, the music teacher, they put together a memorable event.
Mrs. Warakomiski contacted a recruiting office and Petty Officer Daryl Hause and Petty Officer Scott McBride of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force Airman Kurth Francis agreed to come in and talk to the students.
The day began with Mr. Rodney Strohl, the school's health and physical education teacher, and the school's secretary, Mrs. Tracy Smith, doing a little Veterans Day skit over the intercom during the morning's announcements.
Then the fifth grade G.A.T.E. students and the servicemen visited each classroom.
The G.A.T.E. students prepared two age-appropriate programs, one for grades K-2 grades and one for grades 3-6.
For the K-2 grades, they performed a short skit, "Who Is A Veteran?" For the 3-6 grades, they talked about what Veterans Day was, explaining each branch of the armed forces and what is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After each segment, they sang "America."
The students were invited to ask questions of the servicemen.
In the glass case outside the cafeteria, uniforms of each branch of the armed forces were proudly on display, provided by the recruiters and Towamensing staff members. One very special one dates back to World War II, worn by 1st Lt. Ernest F. Hoffner of the U.S. Army, 7th Infantry Div., 17th Regiment 90, the father of Kris Hoffner, a Towamensing fourth grade teacher. He had earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart during his service in World War II and the Korean War. He was a WW II POW. He is 92 years old.
"We did this program to help the children understand the importance of Veterans Day, why we celebrate it and to help them understand what a veteran is," says Mrs. Warakomiski.
In addition to the program, the students wrote letters and made cards for veterans. They were sent to the Wilkes Barre VA Medical Center. A card was to be placed on each of the veterans' dinner trays on Nov. 11 as Towamensing's way of saying "Thank You" for their service.
"A program like this helps the children become aware of what Veterans Day is who veterans are and brings the school together," says Mrs. Steigerwalt.