As students at the Forest Park Middle School learned last week, Veterans’ Day is not just a day off school, but rather, a day of appreciation. The school held an assembly Friday morning honoring more than 60 veterans, 30 of which were present.

Principal Karen Bukowski has been with the school for five years and said it was time the students learned the holiday’s true meaning. She called the assembly “an occasion,” as it was the first held at the school for this purpose. Until last week, students were simply given the day off.

“Serving our country is a form of citizenship,” Bukowski said. “It conveys character, honesty. It’s a big part of who we are.”

Teachers worked closely with students throughout the week in preparation for the assembly. Some classes watched a documentary on the Vietnam War, while others read about the 13 colonies and the first and second world wars. Seventh-graders created colorful posters that expressed the importance of Veterans’ Day. The posters were judged in a contest by veterans and faculty members.

The assembly was held in the school gymnasium and was replete with patriotic decor. A slideshow with veterans’ names and military information was projected on one wall. Another wall was lined with posters depicting battle scenes and American flags. But perhaps the greatest display of patriotism was that of the uniformed veterans, ranging in military rank, age, and service, all gathered in one spot.

Seventh-grader Danny Barron, whose grandfather James Papa was among the veterans present, credits their service for the country’s welfare.

“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to live the way we do today,” Barron said.

Fellow seventh-grader Abby Atwood said the most important part of Veterans’ Day is “thanking and honoring the soldiers who served for us.” She has a distant cousin currently serving in Iraq.

Barron’s grandfather served in the Korean War and worked as an engine mechanic on the Navy’s Blue Angel aircrafts.

“The assembly sets a good example for the kids. It’s a good thing to honor veterans,” Papa said. “They get forgotten too soon.”

The assembly featured guest speaker Nathan Taylor, a Gulf War veteran, who relayed some of his experiences in the service. He also answered students’ questions, and told them they should always listen to their teachers.

Bukowski plans to hold the assembly once every three years so that each middle school student can discover the importance of Veterans’ Day.

“We’ve been at war for a number of years now,” Bukowski said. “It’s time we made Veterans’ Day more meaningful.”

Dedication honors vets

Harrison Street parks officially renamed

By MICHELLE KEEFE

Despite the cold of an early Saturday morning, a Veterans' Day ceremony on the corner of Adams and Thomas streets drew in a respectable crowd. Fully shrouded in their winter gear, people of all ages paid homage to those who served and are currently serving our country.

Mayor Anthony Calderone opened the ceremony with a few words to the meaning and importance of the holiday, asking residents to "continue to stand behind the men and women of the American Legion," as their role in the community has been steadfast for years.

Members of the VFW Post 7181 and American Legion Post 414 presented the colors, which was followed by three rifle shots.

Soon after the ceremony was the dedication of Veterans Stadium, a multipurpose athletic field located on Harrison Street. The dedication drew in an even larger crowd, who also withstood the cold, but with the help of warm refreshments.

The mood was reverent. People listened in silence as Park District Commissioner Joe Byrnes expressed his gratitude toward veterans.

"Those men and women are worthy of far greater recognition than mere words or markers," Byrnes said. "The sacrifices they made and the deeds they performed shall be written in history and shall remain alive in our memories for generations to come."

Reverend Charles Cairo, who served in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1968, concluded the dedication with a Veterans' Day prayer.