Learning to honor military service
Posted: November 10, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — More than 200 local military veterans entered the auditorium at Millbrook High School Friday morning to find scores of students applauding their sacrifices and service.
And by the end of a ceremony aimed at thanking the veterans, more than a few of the tough and hardened men and women had tears in their eyes and lumps in their throats.
The event was part of the Veterans Day Breakfast and Celebration Ceremony, organized by teachers and students at several Frederick County Schools for the past five years.
Rachel Deavers, the service learning teacher at Millbrook, started the annual tradition after coming to the area from Maryland. She said the event has grown from the students hosting 50 veterans in the first year to having about 260 this year.
“We talk about character education in schools and teaching people to be good participators in government and citizenship,” Deavers said. “There’s no better way to show them that than to see people who have actually done that, and a lot of these veterans are still really active in their communities.
“It’s a good opportunity to get the older folks who have all these great lessons to teach together with the young people who have all these great lessons to learn,” she added.
Service learning students from James Wood and Sherando high schools also helped to organize the event.
“It’s certainly one way that the youth can give back to the community and it does give them an experience to help them with their communications skills, their teamwork [and] team-building skills,” said Jennifer McKannon, Sherando High School’s service learning teacher. “What better way to thank those who served our country?”
Stephens City resident Walt Jagiello, who served in the Air Force from 1976 through 1984, came to the breakfast and ceremony for the first time Friday.
“I think one of the things that puts veterans apart is, no matter what branch you served in, once you’ve served we have a great camaraderie with one another,” he said. “It’s always fun to get together with other veterans.”
Tom Throckmorton, a former Winchester resident who now lives in Front Royal, served in the Army from 1960 to 1973. He decided to attend the event for the first time this year after reading about it in the newspaper and talking to a friend who had attended previously.
“He said ‘You’ve got to go one time,’” Throckmorton said. “It’s just great, the way the kids are doing this and the respect they show to the veterans.”
Winchester resident Bud Graves, who served in the Army from 1993 through 1997, has attended the event in years past.
“I think it’s a great honor that they put on [the event] especially for our service veterans,” he said. “Especially in this day and time when we still have soldiers in harm’s way. It’s nice to be recognized for service to country.”
This year, Graves brought his friend Tim Schraff — also a Winchester resident, who served in the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999 — to the ceremony. Schraff said the event and turnout was more than he expected.
Jim Kelly, who served in the Air Force from 1954 to 1958, came for the first time Friday and said it was a terrific experience.
Muriel Simanek served as a medical technician in the Women’s Army Corps at the Murphy Army Hospital in Waltham, Mass., from 1951 to 1953.
“That was the furthest I got from home,” she joked. “[The ceremony] was wonderful.”
Before the ceremony, Deavers said she hopes the students remember some of the lessons they learned by hosting the event as they prepare to graduate high school.
“The idea behind service learning is that kids experience government and community service and they learn government at the same time, so I thought this would be a good project for them to do because they’re going to be going out on internships in the spring so it’s kind of a good rehearsal,” Deavers said. “It just seemed to work with this group.”
James Carr, the service learning teacher at James Wood High School, said the event is a way for the students and schools to help the community.
“We feel it’s a great honor to give a little back,” he said.
Morgan Craig, a senior in Carr’s class, helped to organize the event for the first time this year.
“It’s actually been on of the most fulfilling activities I’ve had in a long time,” she said. “To be here and actually see all the veterans and meet them, shake their hands and thank them, it’s wonderful. We put a lot into this and it feels more amazing every minute.”
The ceremony included performances by Millbrook High School musical ensembles, speeches thanking veterans by students and tributes to fallen and wounded soldiers.
When the veterans filed out of the auditorium, students lined up to thank them for their service one last time.
Across from the high school, more than 100 Redbud Run Elementary School students cheered and held signs expressing appreciation for the veterans as they walked and drove past on a sunny November morning.
— Contact Matt Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org