The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Charles Pritchard cpritchard@onei­dadis­ Re­porter

SHER­RILL, N.Y. >> For some vet­er­ans, they never re­ceive a thank you or even an ac­knowl­edge­ment for their ser­vice. The Sher­rill-Ken­wood Free Li­brary and E.A. McAl­lis­ter Ele­men­tary School are work­ing to change that.

By start­ing the Vet­er­ans Day let­ter writ­ing cam­paign with the ele­men­tary school, stu­dents have been able to reach out to vet­er­ans across the area and thank them for their ser­vice.

The Sher­rill li­brary started the Vet­er­ans Day let­ter writ­ing event af­ter Li­brary Di­rec­tor Mary Kay Jun­glen re­al­ized some of the chil­dren in her Vet­er­ans Day events did not know what the day meant or why it was cel­e­brated. To rem­edy this, Jun­glen ap­proached the Sher­rill Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 230 and asked for their help to up­date their col­lec­tion of Vet­er­ans Day books.

Jun­glen said the orig­i­nal books the li­brary had were older and unattrac­tive to younger au­di­ences. Thanks to the Sher­rill Amer­i­can Le­gion, books de­tail­ing each branch of the mil­i­tary and past con­flicts helped ed­u­cate chil­dren and soon be­came their most checked out books.

When the school be­came in­volved, Jun­glen said stu­dents were given names of lo­cal vet­er­ans to write to and many were sur­prised. They had no idea they were get­ting let­ters from chil­dren and it touched thema fewin a spe­cial way.

“I had one vet­eran come in last year, cry­ing. He said he had never been thanked by a school-aged child be­fore,” Jun­glen said. “It broke my heart, but at the same time, I thought that the li­brary could change this. And we have.”

Kinder­garten stu­dents would make lam­i­nated book­marks and Jun­glen would see them get into the hands of any pa­trons who vis­ited the li­brary who served their coun­try.

Col. Clark Spe­icher of the United States Air Force, one of those pa­trons, was one of the vet­er­ans reached out to by stu­dents and in turn, he thought he’d give back.

“Colonel Spe­icher was one of the vet­er­ans who re­ceived a sur­prise pack of let­ters in his mail­box,” Jun­glen said. “He was so ap­pre­cia­tive, he came into the li­brary and asked what he could do for next year.”

Spe­icher said it’s im­por­tant to help chil­dren un­der­stand what a vet­eran is and the sac­ri­fices they’ve made through­out the his­tory of the coun­try to help keep it safe.

On Nov. 6, Spe­icher sat down with more than 30 lo­cal vet­er­ans and read “What is Vet­er­ans Day?” to chil­dren in grades pre-k-6. The book is one of sev­eral avail­able at the Sher­rill li­brary.

“It’s a spe­cial day. What spe­cial day is this?” Spe­icher read. “There are pa­rades. Peo­ple bring flow­ers to soldiers’ graves. We thank those that served in the armed forces. It must be Vet­er­ans Day. Our vet­er­ans are peo­ple who have served in the armed forces who kept our coun­try free and safe. They put their lives in dan­ger to do this. Many have died for our free­dom.”

Spe­icher read to the en­tire E.A. McAl­lis­ter stu­dent body from the book and took ques­tions from stu­dents.

One young stu­dent asked if vet­er­ans work for the mil­i­tary.

“Vet­er­ans are peo­ple who used to be in the mil­i­tary,” Spe­icher said. “One thing neat about be­ing a vet­eran and hav­ing Vet­er­ans Day events is that peo­ple like me and all the peo­ple up here who are vet­er­ans can wear their uni­forms like I do to­day. But they’re no longer in the mil­i­tary. They served their coun­try for years and now they’re vet­er­ans.”

A young girl asked Spe­icher what it was like to be in the Air Force and Spe­icher smiled.

“It is the coolest thing to be in the Air Force,” Spe­icher said. “It’s a lot fun and there are a lot of dif­fer­ent ca­reers in the mil­i­tary. You can be a doc­tor, you can be a po­lice of­fi­cer, you can do all sorts of dif­fer­ent jobs.”

When asked how long he was in the Air Force, Spe­icher said he served for 30 years, much to the stu­dent body’s amaze­ment. The sounds of chil­dren cry­ing out “wow” was quickly drowned out by a round of ap­plause.

“It seems like a long time, but it went by quickly,” Spe­icher said.

The stu­dents latched onto Spe­icher’s time fly­ing air­craft and asked him what the in­side of a jet looked like, if his plane had weapons on it, and if he ever was in com­bat.

Spe­icher ex­plained his plane was much like a com­mer­cial air­liner and even had a cabin where peo­ple could sleep or have a cup of cof­fee, but his plane was never at­tacked.

“We flew very high and far away from en­emy air­planes and all our U.S. Air Force fighter jets pro­tected us from the bad guys,” Spe­icher said. “So we never had that hap­pen, for­tu­nately.”

Spe­icher said it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the mil­i­tary and vet­er­ans play an im­por­tant role in not just con­flict, but peace­keep­ing, such as help­ing those af­fected by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Af­ter hur­ri­canes and floods, Spe­icher said the mil­i­tary is there for lo­cal gov­ern­ments who may not have the re­sources to quickly get back on their feet.

Stu­dents of all ages got a chance to in­tro­duce their fam­ily who served in themil­i­tary and were in­vited to at­tend the event.

Pre-kinder­garten stu­dent Gra­cie Pfluger in­tro­duced John Walts, Navy, Pete Ben­der, U.S. Marines, and Nathan Walts, Navy; sec­ond-grade stu­dent Daw­son Collins in­tro­duced Josh Lin­der­mann, U.S. Marines; fifth-grade stu­dent Calvin Di­ete­man in­tro­duced KC Baney, U.S. Army; and more than a dozen more stu­dents in­tro­duced vet­er­ans in their lives to give them a mo­ment to be rec­og­nized by the com­mu­nity.

But be­fore vet­er­ans had a chance to leave, stu­dents had one more sur­prise for them; the E.A. McAl­lis­ter stu­dent body sang for lo­cal vet­er­ans a ren­di­tion of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Some stu­dents were able to de­liver their let­ters by hand to lo­cal vet­er­ans who sat and talked with each other over cof­fee and donuts af­ter the event.

Spe­icher said when it comes to bridg­ing the gap and what lo­cal mem­bers of the com­mu­nity can do to help vet­er­ans, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber there are vet­er­ans who need help.

“There are or­ga­ni­za­tions in the com­mu­nity, like the Cen­tral New York Vet­er­ans Out­reach Cen­ter. That’s one place I sup­port in our Sher­rill Ro­tary Club,” Spe­icher said. “You do­nate food, cloth­ing and house­hold items to vet­er­ans in need that per­haps aren’t as well off as oth­ers.”

Spe­icher said he en­joyed his time­with the ele­men­tary stu­dents and hoped the chil­dren take home with them a “new­found ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what it means to be vet­eran and they un­der­stand what a vet­eran is.”

“And an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the sac­ri­fices vet­er­ans have made in their mil­i­tary ca­reer to serve the United States,” he added.

Spe­icher said the United State still sees on­go­ing con­flicts around the world and peo­ple are de­ployed across places like Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of Africa and fight­ing not just the war on ter­ror, but other con­flicts like stomp­ing out drug trades look­ing to make their way to the United States. And while mem­bers of the armed forces fight, some lose their lives.

“An army ma­jor was killed re­cently in Afghanistan,” Spe­icher said. “I think it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to re­al­ize that this is still hap­pen­ing and un­der­stand what it means to serve the coun­try, and then be a vet­eran.”


Colonel Clark Spe­icher reads to the stu­dents of E A McAl­lis­ter Ele­men­tary School about the mean­ing of Vet­er­ans Day on Tues­day, Nov. 6, 2018.

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