Ser­vice vet­er­ans ac­cept medals, thanks dur­ing school cer­e­mony

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil dsokil@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Dan­sokil on Twit­ter

LANS­DALE >> Over a hun­dred lo­cal vet­er­ans were thanked for their ser­vice Fri­day morn­ing, by a gen­er­a­tion grow­ing up in a world their el­ders helped se­cure.

Stu­dents in each grade at Mater Dei Catholic School in Lans­dale took turns Fri­day morn­ing singing pa­tri­otic songs, read­ing quotes from for­mer U.S. presidents, hand­ing medals to vet­er­ans, and thank­ing them for de­fend­ing their coun­try.

“Con­fi­dence ... thrives on hon­esty, on honor, on the sa­cred­ness of obli­ga­tions, on faith­ful pro­tec­tion and on un­selfish per­for­mance. With­out them it can­not live.” - Pres­i­dent Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt.

“It’s very emo­tional, be­cause when we came back from Viet­nam, we weren’t wel­comed back. We weren’t al­lowed to wear our uni­forms when we came back, we were cussed out, called baby killers, called every name you could think of,” said Alan Moore.

Moore served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1960s, in­clud­ing a de­ploy­ment to Viet­nam in 1966-67 and a stint train­ing at Par­ris Is­land in South Carolina in 1963, where he met his wife Kay.

“Both of our boys were born there, on Par­ris Is­land, and I was one of the for­tu­nate ones that came back (from Viet­nam), he said.

“Un­til our grand­kids got us in­volved here, we never ever told any­body we were over there. And that’s no lie — we just never talked about it,” Moore said.

“As we ex­press our gratitude we must never for­get that the high­est ap­pre­ci­a­tion is not to ut­ter words, but to live by them.” - Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy.

As they posed for pho­tos with their grand­daugh­ters and Mater Dei stu­dents Shan­non and Tara, the Moores caught up with fel­low vet­er­ans they haven’t seen since last year’s Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony at the school, like U.S. Army Lt. Col. Gil Buentello.

“It’s very emo­tional. It’s an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence — you can tell that they’re happy to have us here, and that’s re­ally ex­cit­ing,” said Buentello.

Buentello just re­turned on Oct. 1 from a 14-month de­ploy­ment to Kuwait and Iraq, and said he plans to at­tend the school cer­e­mony for each of the next three years un­til he re­tires from ac­tive duty.

“I’m glad that they feel it’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize and cel­e­brate vet­er­ans,” he said.

“Free­dom is never more than one gen­er­a­tion away from ex­tinc­tion. We didn’t pass it to our chil­dren through the blood­stream. It must be fought for pro­tected, and handed on for them to do the same.” — Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Kohler said she’s glad to catch up with friends and school staff each year, and has at­tended the cer­e­mony for the past seven years, but will be else­where in 2019.

“Next year, I won’t be able to be here. I’ll be de­ployed, some­where in the Mid­dle East — some­where not fun, that’s all I know,” Kohler said.

Cur­rently a fleet man­ager for a con­struc­tion squadron, Kohler said she de­cided to en­list af­ter the Septem­ber 11, 2001 ter­ror at­tacks, and this past Septem­ber marked her 18th year in uni­form.

“Me and my kids have a lot of con­ver­sa­tions, be­cause they have no clue. Even show­ing them some of the doc­u­men­taries, and the movies and the shows, it doesn’t do it, but it’s the same way for some of us with World War II or Viet­nam,” Kohler said.

Her time in the mil­i­tary has “given me an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what this coun­try stands for. Even as di­vided as we are right now, some­thing like Vet­er­ans Day can bring peo­ple to­gether.”

“No mat­ter what side of the po­lit­i­cal arena you’re on, you need those peo­ple that are will­ing to de­fend us. It’s changed my life: I’ve got­ten an ed­u­ca­tion, learned how to be a leader and men­tor, it helped me to guide my own chil­dren in things I never would’ve known how to do, with­out the skills I learned in the mil­i­tary.”

“It’s about how we treat our vet­er­ans every sin­gle day of the year. It’s about serv­ing all of you as you’ve served the United States.” - Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Stu­dents took turn singing pa­tri­otic songs, in­clud­ing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” “Amer­ica” and “My Coun­try ‘Tis of Thee” and in­spi­ra­tional re­li­gious songs, be­fore light­ing cer­e­mo­nial can­dles for each branch of the armed ser­vices. The stu­dents then placed spe­cial com­mem­o­ra­tive medals on the necks of each vet­eran, which de­picted a bald ea­gle on one side and read “Mater Dei Catholic School Cel­e­brates your Pa­tri­o­tism” on the other, and were do­nated by Anne Hi­rata in mem­ory of late U.S. Army vet­eran Edward Hi­rata.

“I got a lit­tle emo­tional. I have two grand­kids here, and it’s nice, they do a good job,” said Wayne Milam of Lans­dale.

Milam served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to ‘70 in­clud­ing de­ploy­ments to Viet­nam, and said he hadn’t thought much about his ser­vice un­til one of his com­bat bud­dies found him on Face­book about five years ago.

“He said ‘So what have you been do­ing for the last 45 years?’ And that was the first time I ac­tu­ally thought, ‘45 years, my God,’” he said.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing their medals, the vet­er­ans and stu­dents formed a pro­ces­sion from the school’s main gym and au­di­to­rium, across Lans­dale Av­enue to the ad­ja­cent ceme­tery. There, Dea­con and U.S. Navy vet­eran Steve Von­der­crone led a prayer, as he blessed a wreath that the vet­er­ans then placed atop a me­mo­rial to lo­cal vet­er­ans of World War I, II and Viet­nam, and stu­dents played “Taps” on trum­pets.

“Amer­ica’s gratitude to our vet­er­ans is some­thing al­ways grounded in some­thing greater than what you did on duty. It’s an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the ex­am­ple that you con­tinue to set af­ter your ser­vice has ended - (it’s) your ex­am­ple as cit­i­zens,” - Pres­i­dent Donald Trump.

As the vet­er­ans walked out to the ceme­tery, Mater Dei stu­dents lined the way hold­ing Amer­i­can flags, and when the vet­er­ans re­turned, pre-Kinder­garten stu­dents waved and said “Thank you” to the vets while wear­ing hand­made red, white and blue knit hats.

“It feels good, in a way .... I think more about the guys that aren’t here,” said Marine Corps tech­ni­cian Louis Fahs.

Fahs served in the Air Force fro 1966 to ‘69, in­clud­ing a year as a bomber and tanker sup­port tech­ni­cian in Thai­land, and said hew as glad his two grand­sons who at­tend Mater Dei are learn­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate the mil­i­tary.

“This is the fourth time I’ve been here, and every year it’s dif­fer­ent. Back in the day it was, ‘Oh, you’re home,’ no big deal,” he said.


Mater Dei Catholic School stu­dent Shan­non Moore, cen­ter, poses for a photo with her grand­par­ents, U.S. Marine Corps vet­er­ans Alan and Kay Moore, and U.S. Army vet­eran Gil Buentello fol­low­ing a Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony at the school.


Lo­cal vet­er­ans and Mater Dei Catholic School stu­dents and staff bow their heads as Dea­con and U.S. Navy vet­eran Steve Von­der­crone, cen­ter, leads a prayer at Mater Dei’s me­mo­rial to fallen ser­vice mem­bers.


Mater Dei Catholic School stu­dents give medals to lo­cal vet­er­ans to thank them for their ser­vice dur­ing a Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony at the school on Nov. 9.

Mater Dei Catholic School stu­dents lead a pro­ces­sion of roughly 100 lo­cal vet­er­ans into a cer­e­mony hon­or­ing the vet­er­ans for their ser­vice on Nov. 9.

Lo­cal vet­er­ans view a col­lage of pho­tos of their younger selves fol­low­ing a Vet­er­ans Day cer­e­mony at Mater Dei Catholic School in Lans­dale on Nov. 9.

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