Orchard Hill Elementary School students offered their gratitude to veterans through music and poetry Monday morning at a special Veterans Day assembly.
Some students sang patriotic songs, others read poems that they had written to the 45 veterans who had fought in each of America’s conflicts dating back to World War II.
In turn, the also veterans explained the significance of the holiday’s observance.
“These men said, ‘When I was called, I will serve and I will do what it takes to protect my country,’” Sgt. Major Kent Carlson said to the students. “These veterans served many hardships. Sometimes it was cold, damp, they didn’t have much to eat, they didn’t get a lot of sleep and they were away from their families for a long time. But they did that willingly so that we can enjoy the freedoms guaranteed to us.”
Principal Michael Tortora said that the election held last Tuesday to choose America’s leaders was a result of the efforts of the men on the school gym’s stage as well as men and women like them all across the country.
“We have the veterans to thank for that,” he said.
In addition to Tortora reading the names of each veteran and his student relative, a group of Girl Scouts sang the most common - though unofficial - lyrics to “Taps,” a song that is marking its 150th anniversary this year.
Erin Mutchek, Lindsey Tortora and Kabrea Akko each read original poems to the veterans.
Members of the Cub Scouts presented the colors, while different classes sang songs to mark the occasion.
Bob Zumwalt, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, said that he appreciated that South Windsor public schools were open on the day Veterans Day was being observed, as it gave students an opportunity to learn what veterans have done for the country.
“It’s heartwarming that the kids understand what’s happened in previous wars,” said Zumwalt, noting that he didn’t receive as positive reception from people when he returned home. “The military is an important part of our culture. It’s important that children learn what we lived through.”
One veteran, 95-year-old Chester Kology, flew in 35 missions as a B-24 and B-17 tail gunner in the European Theater in World War II.
Kology’s son, James, said that he was “quite grateful that [his father] is here.”
Four members of the town council - Deputy Mayor Gary Bazzano, Kevin McCann, Dr. Saud Anward and Cindy Beaulieu - were also in attendance.