Veterans were saluted and serenaded by students at James Hart School in Homewood as part of the District 153 celebration of Veterans Day on Wednesday.
More than 40 veterans accepted invitations to be guests at a special breakfast. Many came in their American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars jackets and hats. At least a dozen veterans were accompanied by students who attend Hart and Millennium School.
Superintendent Dale Mitchell said the school board wanted Veterans Day to be an educational day for students “to learn what this day really means.” Social studies classes have focused on Veterans Day. Putting students in direct contact with veterans at the breakfast added another dimension, Mitchell said.
“Thank you for allowing us to celebrate with you,” he told those gathered.
Sophia Youpel got to sit with her dad, Tom, a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1990 to 1994 joining immediately after graduating from Richards High School. He was stationed primarily in Okinawa, Japan.
Youpel admitted he didn’t really talk about his service with his daughter, but she said she is proud her dad served and that her two uncles did too. “And my grandpa is an Army veteran,” the eighth grader added.
Jacob Walsh, a sixth grader, sat with his grandfather, Bob Brown, an Army veteran who served in Korea from 1960 to 1963.
“I was there when Syngman Rhee got overthrown,” Brown said of the leader of the First Republic of Korea.
Rhee served from 1948 until 1960 as the first leader of South Korea after the country of Korea was divided North and South at the 38th Parallel by United Nations agreement after World War II. Rhee is said to have led a government that put democratic principles in place, but he became more autocratic over time. The government under his leadership collapsed in 1960.
Brown said he worked security and couldn’t tell anyone what the U.S. Army was doing at the time. He still won’t talk about it.
Corey Oswalt-Armenteros invited his great-uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Oswalt, to the breakfast. Sitting together Corey was impressed when he had his great-uncle explain to him what all the ribbons were on his National Guard uniform.
Oswalt came to the breakfast from Armington, Ill., said Josh Oswald, Corey’s dad. Oswalt spent six years in the Air Force from 1982 to 1988 stationed in Belgium and Egypt. It was after Sept. 11, 2001, that he joined the National Guard and did a tour of duty in Iraq.
As part of the program, the assembled students and veterans recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, the service members stood as their branch of service was recognized. After breakfast, the student orchestra performed a short program.
“This is a day we thank veterans for everything they did for our country,” said seventh grader Asya Lengel who was waiting to perform for the veterans. “They risked their lives, and lost their lives. They were just great people.”