This Veteran’s Day I had the opportunity to go to our school’s Veteran’s Day Breakfast and to interview a few of the attending veterans, some of whom are Franklin High School graduates or faculty members. This is the fourth year that Franklin High School has hosted a Veteran’s Day Breakfast, a tradition started by Ms. Zeka, whose father and grandfather were both marines. She said that the goal of establishing the event was to honor veterans and to hear their stories, while giving students the opportunity to meet and get to know local veterans.
Among these veterans were faculty members Mr. Papenfuss (Army), Mr. Johnson (Air Force ‘85-89), and substitute teacher Mr. Smith (Army Aviation). Mr. Gould is also a veteran of our nation’s armed forces, but was not in attendance. Girls Varsity Basketball assistant coach Mr. Balistreri was also there, an Air Force veteran with over three and a half decades of service (1966-2002).
The veterans sat at tables around the cafeteria talking to each other about their times in the service of our country. Veterans from all branches (with the exception of the Coast Guard) were there, with former members of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps in attendance. Every veteran brought stories with them, and were happy to share them with their fellow veterans and students alike. Here are just a few of those stories:
Mr. Judd, a former Army MP (military policeman) who was stationed on Okinawa in 1953 shared some stories about his experience on the island. He spoke of a “typhoon-proof” hangar that had just been finished being blown away by the first typhoon it encountered, along with all the aircraft and equipment inside. He also told us about his job destroying old Japanese tunnels in order to extend a runway, and how they’d discovered two old Japanese planes rigged to have their wheels fall off after takeoff, making it impossible for the pilot to land, and therefore forcing them to become kamikazes.
Mr. Smith, a Franklin High School substitute and helicopter pilot in Vietnam, told us about how they’d cook their food off of blocks of C-4, which is actually very stable, and doesn’t explode when heated. However, it produced enough heat to cook a meal. He had 2,500 hours of flight time during the war in a Huey (Bell UH-1 Iroquois) Helicopter.
A Navy veteran of the Korean War also talked about his service, and how he’d been on the shore party that went into battle with the marines stationed on their ship. He’d been inspired to join the armed forces by his brother, who’d been at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese launched their unprovoked attack on the naval base on December 7th, 1941.
After hearing their stories, I asked a few of them what they thought about the Veteran’s Day Breakfast. Here are a few responses:
“It’s appreciated, we don’t always get a lot of recognition. A lot of people nowadays seem to take their freedoms for granted,” said one army veteran.
“It’s a really nice event, and it really makes me feel appreciated,” said a Korean War vet.
“It feels really nice to be considered. Veterans don’t get too much representation, but it seems like there is increasing awareness,” said a former MP.
“It makes me feel very honored. It’s something I always look forward too,” said a Navy veteran.
The event was extremely well-coordinated, including members of the FHS choir singing the National Anthem. Attending veterans were treated to breakfast and coffee. It was evident from the smiles on their faces that they appreciated the event greatly, and were honored to be there.
Thank you to Ms. Zeka for starting such an admirable event, and thank you to all of the veterans who have served our nation.