“These kids will never forget,” said JR Pagano, a Vietnam veteran who attended the ceremony. “As these kids grow up, they’re going to know the value of everything that happened, and why our country is the way it is. It really is an honor to be here, and it was an honor to serve.”
The program began with students escorting their family members and friends who are veterans to the front of the school’s multipurpose room. Boy Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance, and students sang patriotic songs.
The veterans then each introduced themselves and described their military background. The oldest veteran, Stanley Troutman, said he was 95 years old, and the uniform he wore was 70 years old. He told the audience about serving as a war correspondent during World War II, and visiting Hiroshima a month to the day after it was bombed.
Another veteran, Troy Mikulka, told of serving as a Marine helicopter flyer in the Middle East, Europe and in Africa.
“I would fly low, as low as this ceiling,” he told the students. “I would see all the giraffes and elephants and tigers. It was very adventurous and a little bit scary.”
Parent organizer Nancy Murphy described letters the students wrote as part of A Million Thanks, an organization that collects letters to distribute to troops. She read part of one letter, written by a second-grader, that said, “Dear Daddy, Thank you for all the things you did in the war. I don’t know what you did, but I’m sure you did a very good job…I hope whatever team you were on won.” The letters were displayed on the MPR’s walls.
After the assembly, veterans and family members gathered for refreshments in the school’s library.
Principal Todd Schmidt said he’d never worked at a school that honored veterans with such an elaborate program.
“These kids were so proud,” he said.
Harbor View’s former principal, Mellissia Christensen, began the Veterans Day program 11 years ago in part to remember her uncle, whose remains were returned to her family this spring; read our story here.
The school’s former music teacher, Linda Messenger, worked with parents to organize this year’s event and directed the school’s scouts in singing “America the Beautiful.”
“I hope they never stop this program,” she said.