Veterans recount war experiences with Palmerton High School students
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Palmerton Area High School students admire the extensive display of war memorabilia at a Veterans Day assembly held inside the high school auditorium on Friday in observance of Veterans Day.
The hardships they had to deal with, the fear they felt, and the courage they showed are the stuff of legend.
Though it must have been hard for them to fathom, the stories Palmerton Area High School seniors heard were as real as it gets.
A group of five area residents recounted their trials and tribulations as part of a Veterans Day assembly in the high school auditorium on Friday.
High school history teacher Michael Gombert welcomed veterans Earl Henning, aviation machinist, 2nd class tail gunner, B24, U.S. Navy, World War II veteran of the Pacific Theatre; Marian Jones, former Army nurse during World War II; Stephen Vlossak, U.S. Army, Vietnam veteran; Al Kohler, petty officer, motor machinist mate second class, U.S. Navy, World War II veteran; and Pete Holthausen, U.S. Army, Persian Gulf War veteran. Gombert said Richard Weaver, Sr., master sergeant, U.S. Air Force, retired, who served in Vietnam, was unable to attend.
Vlossak said Vietnam was an unpopular war.
"We were not treated the way we should have been like today's soldiers were," Vlossak said. "When you came home, you had your family, and beyond that, you didn't talk about Vietnam."
Over time, Vlossak said the stigma of Vietnam has subsided considerably.
"That's changed, and people appreciate Vietnam vets, and most important, are treating our veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, so at least something good came out of it," he said. "A lot of it is because of the sacrifices they made for us to make our country this great country of ours."
Kohler's message was to "always remember our veterans so we don't forget them."
"We are the fortunate ones; we are alive, and they gave their lives," Kohler said. "This is the best country in the world."
Kohler then thanked the high school "for allowing us to tell our story."
"Freedom is never free," he said. "We'd like to express our gratitude and thank the good Lord that we are all alive today."
Holthausen noted there are over 2.3 million disabled veterans.
"These are not good times for our disabled veterans," Holthausen said. "Something must be done to recognize our veterans who are disabled."
Gombert thanked the veterans for taking the time to share their
"This truly is a special day for the veterans; we really hope that you got something out of this," Gombert said. "I can't say enough that it's very important for them to get a day like this."
Gombert told the students these were the individuals they should look up to.
"These are the true heroes; the ones who have shaped this country to be as good as it is," he said. "We really appreciate that all were here."
A question-and-answer session followed in which several students posed questions to the veterans.
Jones said she knows her work wasn't in vein.
"I got lots of Thank-Yous from wounded soldiers; they would give you a hug," Jones said. "My experience kind of overwhelmed me after I had come home; I didn't feel I did anything special."
Jones added "I did what I did, and I had the guts to do it."
"I am so glad I did go into the service and experience what I did," she said. "I feel I helped a little bit."
Henning said his experience enabled him to "meet a lot of friends, a lot of people."
"I met some great men," Henning said. "You make light of things so you can get past to the next day."
Various pieces of war memorabilia were set up at the assembly for students to view.