Thompson elementary students honor veterans

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Nov. 11, 2013
(L to r) It's a family affair for Brennan & Brittany Neylon, Kimberly Taylor, and Jacob and William Hallene. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L to r) It's a family affair for Brennan & Brittany Neylon, Kimberly Taylor, and Jacob and William Hallene. Photos by D. Coffey.

Students at the Mary R. Fisher Elementary School in Thompson held an appreciation assembly for veterans on Nov. 8. The students and staff had invited area veterans to the event. When the doors opened for those guests, they found the students waiting in the auditorium for them. Flags were attached to railings, bunting covered the front of the stage, and a banner reading “Veterans’ Day” hung from the lectern.

Music teacher Carol Rossetti led an 18-student Fortezza in song while an honor guard proceeded down the side aisle and onto the stage. They were followed by more than 30 veterans. Many were relatives of the students - grandfathers, fathers, husbands, aunts, uncles, cousins and godfathers. They represented servicemen and women from every branch of the service from World War II to the present. 

Six students read the letters they had written for the veterans. They thanked them for their service and sacrifice. “You were there for us,” one boy said. “Now we’re here for you.”

A slide show flashed pictures of 75 veterans with their name, rank and relation to a Mary R. Fisher Elementary School student or staff member. Fifty-four students and faculty had relatives in the show. The roll call of soldiers and sailors stretched back for generations.

Principal Noveline Beltram took the occasion to thank Norman Babbitt, who helped prepare the event. “He’s a familiar figure to us, and a teacher who understands that it’s not always easy to grasp the concepts of citizenship and Americanism,” she said. “Both were accomplished today.”

She also took a moment to recognize her mother and father, who attended the event. Her father served in the Navy during WW II. Henry Beltram was a Pharmacist First Class with the U.S. Navy. He served on the U.S.S. Talladega, an attack transport ship. He saw crewmembers lining the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri during the surrender of Japan.

“I was a little farm boy from Chepachet,” he said. “We all did our part in the war. But you don’t realize what you’re doing when you’re 18.”

Assistant Principal Megan Baker gave Babbitt a collection of student artwork and letters for a keepsake. Students sang the national anthem, “America the Beautiful,” “You’re a Grand Ole’ Flag,” “Thank you, Soldiers,” and “This is My Country.”

Vietnam War veteran Charles Panu said he really appreciated the students’ presentation. He was a sergeant in the 4th Infantry, carrying out 36 missions in helicopters. “Every time I see a helicopter, it brings it back,” he said. “So many soldiers didn’t come back. I was fortunate.”  

Army veteran Buster Houle blew a kiss as he left the stage. Houle was an ambulance driver in Germany in 1943 to 1945. “It’s a nice feeling to have someone recognize you and what you did 60 years ago,” he said. “I was called and I went. I never regretted it.”

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