OSWEGO, NY – The entire Leighton Elementary School student body turned out Thursday to honor several local veterans – many of whom were their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
Members of the school’s student council escorted the very special guests to their seats. The students then applauded the veterans.
In August, the school board appointed Kara Shore principal at Leighton. School board member Sam Tripp took part in the school’s program. And, Jim Hartmann, a fifth grade teacher at FLS was the ceremony’s MC. All three are veterans.
The students learned what is a veteran and ways to thank veterans.
Members of various classes took part in saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing patriotic songs, including America and You’re a Grand Old Flag.
Students in Pre-K through second grade presented the veterans’ relatives with gifts.
The children who had a veteran visiting were presented with a flag pin by Principal Shore.
The students then went and presented the pin to their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
They also performed the Star Spangled Banner, When a Flag Goes By and Yankee Doodle.
A flute solo of God Bless America was performed by sixth grader Anna Coonan.
The youngsters learned about each branch of the service and what it does.
Guest speakers included:
• Army – SGT Gomez
• Marines – SGT Pulicky
• Air Force – Kelly Sheffield
• Coast Guard – Commander Bill Butke
• Navy – Paul Dehm
• Service Organization – Veterans of Foreign Wars – Al Wood.
Students also heard from a disabled American veteran and how service dogs for PTSD veterans make life better for their masters.
A special guest speaker was Colonel Ben Richardson. Many of the young students might be taking economics class from him in a few years at Oswego High School.
He explained about being away from family, the weight of Army equipment and more.
“We carry a lot of weight. Sometimes, it is physical weight,” he told the students. “Other times it is mental.”
With the help of a fifth grader, he showed just exactly how much the gear a soldier has to carry actually weighs.
The youngster was outfitted with around 100 pounds of gear – almost double his body weight.
“Imagine carrying this around – all day!” Richardson said. “That’s the physical. The psychological part is we often have to be away from the people we love. It’s a mental load that we have to carry. We’re away from the people that love us the most. And, those people have a mental load to carry. So, if you know a veteran; don’t just think about that veteran, think about that veteran’s family. Because that mother, that daughter, that sister, son, brother they sometimes have to bear a very heavy load – like worry. But they don’t talk much about it. So, when you say thank you to a veteran, say thank you to (their families).”
Later, in classrooms, students were able to experience MREs (meals ready to eat), exploration – demonstrations (conducted by classroom teachers) and more. Dog tags were handed out to the students, too.
Student letters to veterans will also be sent to the VA Hospital.
Amy Armet, Leighton Literacy Specialist, contributed some photos for this report.