Event is thank-you to veterans

Posted: November 9, 2013

The Winchester Star

Sen. Tim Kaine (second from right) talks with area veterans during the breakfast. They are (from left) Gerald Lunt of Clarke County and Jack Cunningham and George Kirby, both of Frederick County.
Veteran Ed Ellis of Middletown, captain of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2123 Honor Guard, is greeted at Millbrook High School on Friday during the Veterans Day breakfast and ceremony. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Millbrook High School senior Brooke Russell talks with Korean War veteran Steve Culbert of Frederick County during the Veterans Day breakfast at Millbrook High School on Friday. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER

About 300 military veterans received numerous “Thank-yous” and gestures of respect on Friday at Millbrook High School as part of an annual Veterans Day tradition.

Coordinated by 46 service learning students from Frederick Country’s three high schools and their teachers, “Because of You: Veteran’s Day Celebration Ceremony” included remarks from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., breakfast and multiple tributes — musical, spoken-word and visual — to the veterans and the sacrifices they have made.

The event got its start in 2008 and participating in it is a memory that many students carry with them as they grow older, according to Jennifer McKannan, the service learning teacher at Sherando High School.

“I think the benefits go long and far,” she said. “It’s nice to see the generations come together, you have the three schools come together .... It’s a lot of collaboration and the kids really feel rewarded after this experience.”

Lauren Elliott, the first-year service learning teacher at Millbrook, said the event is a “great opportunity” for students to interact with veterans.

“They’re learning about history in their classrooms [and] this is a chance to get a piece of living history as well,” she said. “This is a new experience for me and it’s been very rewarding and I’m excited to see all the students’ hard work pay off.”

David Sovine, superintendent of the Frederick County Public Schools, said the event is a way for the students to recognize veterans for “providing the freedoms that we all benefit from.”

Gerald “Jerry” Lunt, a 72-year-old Air Force and Air National Guard veteran from Clarke County, said he would not miss the annual breakfast and ceremony.

Lunt, who served from 1963 to 1969, enlisted on Nov. 22, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“It was just coincidental, not reactionary,” he said.

Lunt fondly remembers his time in the service. “You got a sense of belonging to the American people .... By serving, you get a feeling of being really a part of the American people.”

Chris Tucker, a 41-year-old Stephens City resident, served in the Marine Corps from 1991 until he was medically discharged in 1995.

“I would still be in [if not for the medical discharge],” he said. “It meant that much to me; it still means that much to me, the military does.”

Tucker, whose daughter Kaitlyn is a senior service learning student at Sherando, came to the breakfast for the first time this year because of his daughter’s involvement in organizing the event.

“I think it gives [the students] an opportunity to see the generations [of veterans] and respect the sacrifices these men have made, these ladies have made, and I think it gives them an opportunity kind of put action to what they’re learning in the classroom.”

During his address to the veterans, students and school personnel, Kaine said the country has become better about thanking and recognizing servicemen and women for their work since 9/11, especially compared to the time when he grew up, during the Vietnam War.

“I think America has learned and we’re better at [thanking veterans],” he said. “We could do more, but we’re better at it. We do recognize and celebrate the contributions that our active-duty service [personnel] and veterans have performed, but we have to continue to be diligent.”

— Contact Matt Armstrong atmarmstrong@winchesterstar.com