McKinley students salute America’s veterans

American veterans took center stage, quite literally, as students and staff at William McKinley Intermediate School, I.S. 259, saluted them as heroes during an assembly held in advance of Veterans Day.

The tribute held in the morning of Tuesday, November 10, at the 7301 Fort Hamilton Parkway school, included laudatory speeches and words of wisdom from the veterans, as well as a video prepared by McKinley students about what Veterans Day means to them, and a poem recited by its student author that “thank[ed the veterans] for making America what it is today.”

“Veterans Day is not just a day off from school, a sale at Macy’s,” stressed John Quaglione, who attended the event on behalf of State Senator Marty Golden. “We have to thank our soldiers each and every day, not just today, not just tomorrow, not just on Memorial Day. They have given us the opportunity to live in freedom.”

The veterans in attendance were touched by the acknowledgement. “It’s very amazing that so many young people get together to honor veterans, and understand what veterans’ commitment is to this country,” said Danny Friedman. “Every generation has answered the call, and some paid the ultimate price to help build this great country. One thing this country has always done is honor the warrior. It doesn’t necessarily mean to honor the war, but it shows respect to the men and women who put their lives on the line.”

Glenn Kenny, whose daughter attends McKinley, urged the students to continue the commitment to America’s military, by volunteering with veterans programs such as the Wounded Warriors Project, visiting veterans at the VA Hospital or sending mail to active duty troops serving abroad. A veteran of Desert Storm, he said, “I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to receive a piece of mail. You may want to do that when you go back to your classrooms.”

Yet, noted Paul Amato, “None of us consider ourselves heroes. We consider ourselves patriots. We did what we had to do under unusual circumstances.”

Perhaps the most moving part of the program was the speech by Bobby Ollis, himself a veteran, whose son Michael died while deployed in Afghanistan. Speaking of his son’s sacrifice, Ollis stressed that Michael had a love and commitment to the Army that sent him on three missions.
“If we didn’t have them, where would we be?” Ollis asked of Michael and the other young men and women who put themselves in the line of fire on behalf of the United States. “What kind of world would we be living in? I wouldn’t be talking now to you great young adults.”

The assembly ended with the playing of Taps and a moment of silence for those who had given their lives in service to the United States.

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