Local students thank veterans with flowers and songs
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Nov. 12, 2012
James Lemoine was one of more than 35 veterans who attended a veterans’ appreciation program at Killingly Central School on Nov. 9. The Vietnam veteran joined with veterans from World War II to the present, as 463 KCS students and staff members saluted the contributions and the sacrifices they made in service to the country.
Some came dressed in uniforms. Some came straight from work. Lemoine wore a purple t-shirt, representing the Purple Heart he received for his role in the Battle for Hill 875 in Kontum Province in November 1967. Memories of the fighting still haunt him. “November's a bad month for me,” Lemoine said. “We lost almost 400 men in four days.”
What eased his mind that Friday was a gymnasium full of children, the choral reading they gave, the songs they sang, and the handmade poppies they presented to each vet. “When I look at these kids, I think of them as heroes,” Lemoine said.
Music teacher Allegra Plantier coordinated the event. Plantier traces her patriotism to her grandfather, an Army veteran. “Thirty years after his discharge, he put on that uniform for Memorial and Veterans Day,” she said. “There's never a bad time to say thank you to a vet.”
The students spent an hour doing just that. From Plantier's opening remarks, to the presentations made in the form of poems, letters, flowers and banners, the kids said, “thank you,” over and over again. They rehearsed for days. They learned about the history of Veterans Day and the meaning behind the red poppies. They drew flags and made banners. And when they sang, “You are Our Heroes,” to the gathered veterans, there were more than a few teary eyes in the crowd.
Marine Cpl. Rito Soriano received an invitation to the program from his goddaughter, Cheyenne Hart. The reservist from Chicopee, Mass., served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 and in Afghanistan in 2010. “It's good to be appreciated,” he said.
World War II veteran Ernest Salva was invited by his great granddaughter, Jadyn. The chaplain for VFW Posts 1529 and 1523 said, “I just want them to know we were here to serve so they can live in a free country.”
“I'm thankful for the people still out there,” said Marine Corps veteran Brian Weaver. Weaver's son, Logan, had invited him to the assembly. Logan, dressed in camouflage pants and shirt, with canteen and flashlight, presented poppies to his father, and to his grandfather, Tom Weaver.
The event kicked off the school's holiday letter-writing campaign to veterans. So far Plantier has the names of 15 service men and women. Students will write letters and they will be sent with care packages of items such as toothpaste, gum and sundry items. “We send a whole package,” she said. “They can distribute extras to someone who might need a pick-me-up.” This year students will also write letters to hospitalized veterans.