KINGSTON — On a chilly Thursday, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at the Wyoming Valley West Middle School gathered in the auditorium to honor veterans of all wars.
As patriotic music filled the air, the veterans were thanked repeatedly for their service.
James Walsh, a World War II veteran from Wilkes-Barre, spearheaded the effort to hold the Veterans Day ceremonies at the school. Walsh, who will turn 93 on Christmas Eve, attended the ceremony and received a standing ovation for his dedicated service and for his efforts in assuring Veterans Day is properly observed.
“This was an excellent program,” Walsh said. “The students were very impressive and the music was unbelievable.”
Most of the students dressed in red, white and blue to show their patriotic colors and Walsh was moved.
”I become very emotional when I see young people like that paying respect to veterans and being patriotic,” Walsh said. “They are our future. I think the message was received, and I am honored to be there again as part of it.”
Walsh served in the Army in World War II, serving in Europe and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
“These kids are so young and innocent, but too many today go off on the wrong track,” Walsh said. “It was terrific to hear them say thank you to the veterans in attendance. That shows they respect us for our service.”
State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, said he enjoys attending ceremonies in the schools because he said he can see the glimmer in the students’ eyes and the unlimited future they all have in front of them.
“But it’s important to keep in mind that you have a future, full of opportunities, because of those who came before you and protected your freedoms,” Mullery said. “It might be an older brother or sister, or your dad or mom, or maybe a grandparent or other relative, but I’m sure most of you know at least one person who has served in our United States military. I’m honored to join you as we approach Veterans Day to remember so many heroes in our community and across our country.”
Mullery gave the students a brief history lesson:
• Veterans Day originally began as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, to commemorate the first anniversary of the end of World War I.
• Nov. 11 eventually became a national holiday in 1938, and became Veterans Day as we know it under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.
• In his proclamation naming Veterans Day a national holiday, President Eisenhower said we should: “Solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting and enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
Mullery said the students should go about their day and think about how many of our regular, everyday activities and fundamental principles have been protected by our veterans.
“The rights that we have — free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble (like we are doing right now) and so many more — are given to us by our Constitution,” Mullery said. “However they are protected by our veterans. It’s thanks to their self-sacrifice and willingness to put the greater good of our country over their own safety that we can enjoy so many freedoms.”
Mullery said veterans have always put themselves on the front lines to protect what we believe in.
“That’s what makes America such a shining beacon,” he said. “And we must thank and remember the veterans who for centuries have protected that beacon. Not a day goes by when we don’t owe appreciation to our veterans for their service and sacrifice that forged this beautiful nation.”
The WVW Middle School Chorus offered several patriotic songs, and remarks were made by Lt. Commander Susan K. Allen, Forty Fort Mayor Andy Tuzinski, and Principal Debbie Troy.