Vet­er­ans head back to el­e­men­tary school

Tra­di­tion con­tin­ues at Saylesville as stu­dents bring in fam­ily mem­bers who have served, or are serv­ing US

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSEPH B. NADEAU jnadeau@woonsock­et­call.com

LIN­COLN — It was a day for vet­er­ans at the Saylesville El­e­men­tary School Fri­day morn­ing as the school con­tin­ued its tra­di­tion of hav­ing stu­dents bring a fam­ily mem­ber to school who has served their coun­try in the mil­i­tary.

In all 13 vet­er­ans from Rhode Is­land and beyond joined the school’s Vet­eran’s Day week­end pro­gram and shared their sto­ries with the stu­dents when later go­ing back to speak to the classes of their fam­ily mem­bers.

The morn­ing’s vet­er­ans tribute, run by the stu­dents them­selves, in­cluded lead­ing ev­ery­one gath­ered in the school’s cafe­te­ria/au­di­to­rium in the Pledge of Al­le­giance and singing the Na­tional An­them. There were also a few spe­cial mo­ment’s like Louie Ranieri, Stu­dent Coun­cil pres­i­dent, and Joshua Den­son, a fourth grader, han­dling the mas­ter of cer­e­monies and spe­cial an­nounce­ments du­ties, and Domino Costa, also a Stu­dent Coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tive, of­fer­ing his thoughts on the sig­nif­i­cance of Vet­er­ans Day, as “a day to honor all vet­er­ans.”

Fifth grader Grant Koloski, read the gather­ing his Vet­eran’s Day poem about the Amer­i­can flag. “I love Vet­er­ans Day and so should you,” Koloski said. “They fought for our rights, they fought for our lives, and they fought for what was right,” he said.

Ava Good, a fifth grader, con­cluded the stu­dent pre­sen­ta­tions while telling the vet­eran par­tic­i­pants they would now be added to the school’s “Wall of Honor.”

State Di­rec­tor of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Kasim Yarn was among the vet­er­ans gath­ered in front of the stu­dent body in the cafe­te­ria and told them that their pro­gram had re­ally impressed him.

“I am so proud of you,” Yarn said. “When I saw all the flags wav­ing when I walked into your school, be­ing a vet­eran my­self, I felt it was such an honor to be here cel­e­brat­ing all of our vet­er­ans with you,” he said.

Saylesville Prin­ci­pal Reza Sarkarati com­mended the stu­dents lead­ers for their ef­forts to make the vet­er­ans wel­come and noted they in turn would be telling the stu­dents what they had ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the mil­i­tary ser­vice when the class­room vis­its were held.

“It is a day for all of us to lis­ten to the vet­er­ans,” Sarkarati said.

Vet­eran Michael Alves, of Lin­coln, started the talks in the cafe­te­ria while telling the stu­dents the story of his late fa­ther-in-laws ser­vice with the Navy in the Pa­cific The­ater dur­ing World War II. His fa­ther-in-law’s ship, the Fletcher Class de­stroyer U.S.S. Bob Evans held five bat­tle stars for its fight­ing in the Pa­cific but had a ter­ri­ble day on May 11, 1945, when it and an­other de­stroyer came un­der an hour along at­tack by Ja­panese kamikaze planes. Af­ter run­ning out of ammo near the end of the bat­tle, the Bob Evans took a direct hit from a kamikaze and would have sunk had it not been for the valiant ef­forts of the crew.

“When the bat­tle was over and they had saved the ship and a ten­der took of the all the ca­su­al­ties,” he noted. “Thirty two of the ship’s crew­men died and an­other 28 were wounded,” Alves said while re­lat­ing the costs of that day for the Evans’ crew.

Later as the vet­er­ans met in smaller groups with the school’s stu­dents, Frank Cramp­ton, who had joined the Air Force when he was 19, talked to stu­dents in his grand­daugh­ter Mad­di­son Ash­man’s class.

Mad­di­son, her brother, Liam, and their par­ents, Ellen and Seth, all live in Lin­coln and Cramp­ton and his wife, Eliz­a­beth, drove up from Mid­dle­port, Penn., to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram.

Cramp­ton said dur­ing his four years with the Air Force be­tween 1966 and 1970, he worked in se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions at bases in Eng­land and Alaska.

While he liked serv­ing at his re­mote base in a beau­ti­ful sec­tion of Alaska near De­nali Na­tional Park, Cramp­ton told the stu­dents it was very cold there. So cold in fact, ev­ery­one on his base al­ways had to keep their win­ter cloth­ing nearby in­side just in case some­thing hap­pened and they had to go out­side.

A per­son would could eas­ily suf­fer frost­bite, Cramp­ton said, if they were out­side un­pro­tected from the cold for even a short pe­riod of time.

John Cianci, of North Smith­field, for­mer mem­ber of the Rhode Is­land Army Na­tional Guard who re­tired with 22 years ser­vice and two tours of duty in Iraq dur­ing the Gulf Wars, went to speak to both his grand­daugh­ter Gianna’s sec­ond grade class with Miss Menard, and his grand­son Gio­vanni’s fifth-grade class with Mrs. Soares.

Cianci said the school had sent out a let­ter invit­ing stu­dents to bring a fam­ily mem­ber with mil­i­tary ser­vice to the Vet­er­ans Day pro­gram and when his grand­chil­dren asked if he would at­tend, he said yes.

“I wanted to visit both of their classes,” Cianci said.

Cianci, a re­tired Mas­ter Sergeant who holds a com­bat achieve­ment badge and Bronze Medal for his ser­vice with the Rhode Is­land’s Guard’s 119th Mil­i­tary Po­lice unit in Desert Storm in 1991, and Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom be­tween 2003 and 2004, took along some of his mil­i­tary gear in­clud­ing his heavy flak jacket and an Iraqi mil­i­tary hel­met he had brought home.

Cianci’s war ex­pe­ri­ences were dif­fi­cult at times and in­cluded both loss of fel­low sol­diers and in­juries from ex­po­sure to a cloud drift­ing from a de­stroyed cache of Iraqi arms be­lieved to have in­cluded quan­ti­ties of the nerve gas, Sarin. The ef­fects of that ex­po­sure linger to­day and Cianci has a full dis­abil­ity from the Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On Thurs­day, Cianci an­swered the Saylesville stu­dents ques­tions about what it was like serve in a war and to be a mil­i­tary po­lice­man, but also told them of the loss of three Rhode Is­land Guards­men, SSG Joseph Cam­era and SGT Charles Cald­well of the 119th’s sis­ter unit, the 115th MP Co., and also of the loss of SPC Michael An­drade, a sol­dier he had been a Pla­toon Sergeant for when he first joined the mil­i­tary.

“It’s a tremen­dous pro­gram,” Cianci said of his visit to Saylesville El­e­men­tary School.

“The young stu­dents got to talk one-on-one with the vet­er­ans and ask lots of ques­tions,” he said.

Vet­er­ans like him­self also got to ex­plain what a war was like, he said. “I tried to tell them it is not a video game. You don’t get to hit the re­set but­ton and start all over again,” Cianci said.

“I ex­plained that peo­ple some­times die when they are serv­ing their coun­try and it is real,” he said.

The vet­er­ans also ben­e­fit from their talks with young peo­ple, said Cianci, who to­day serves as Depart­ment Com­man­der of the Ital­ian-Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans of Rhode Is­land and a board mem­ber of the New Eng­land Vet­er­ans Cham­ber of Com­merce.

“I look at it as the best men­tal health main­te­nance for any vet­eran,” Cianci said while not­ing the pos­i­tive im­pacts of talk­ing to young peo­ple.

It also rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity for the vet­er­ans to teach the stu­dents some­thing they didn’t know, he added. “Not one child in the class knew what the POW/MIA sym­bol rep­re­sented and I ex­plained it to them,” he said.

Sit­ting in front of the vet­er­ans, from left, are sec­ond grader Sarah Oel­baum, as well as kinder­garten­ers Ryan Pi­card and Alyssa DiMario.

R.I. Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Di­rec­tor Kasim Yarns, left, takes ques­tions with Hanna Ro­drigues

Re­tired Rhode Is­land Na­tional Guard mem­ber John Cianci stands with his grand­chil­dren Gianna, left, and Gio­vanni Cianci.

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