By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – Hundreds of little American flags waved in the air as Cpl. Jeff Peeters entered the All Saints Catholic School gym for a surprise tribute to honor him for Veterans Day.
Peeters thought he was in the school to talk with fourth-graders, but instead he was greeted by an all-school assembly on Nov. 10, the day before Veterans Day. The event was arranged by his mom, Penny Peeters, who works part-time on the school playground.
Cpl. Peeters graduated from Holy Family Catholic School in 2001 (which later became All Saints) and Assumption High School in 2006. He attended the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater for 1 ½ years before enlisting in the Marine Corps. “The events of 9/11 affected him and he thought about joining the Marines,” All Saints Principal Jeanne VonFeldt told the assembly.
Peeters has served three tours in Afghanistan and one in Jordan. Not long before his return to the United States from Afghanistan, Peeters had been shot at, but his armor protected him. His mom credits prayer with sparing her son from injuries. “His education in Catholic schools followed him. His faith is his base,” Penny Peeters said. “We are very blessed.”
Student Council members presented Peeters with posters signed by students and staff in appreciation for his service to the United States. He also received an All Saints shirt.
“Thank you all for taking time out of your day to welcome me back home. I appreciate it,” Peeters told the students.
Several family members held back tears throughout the assembly. Besides his mother, other family members present were his dad, Frank; grandparents, Arthur and Nancy Williamson and Fred and Mary Peeters; uncle, Tom Peeters; sister, Stacey Schlichting; aunt Lori Ruden; and cousin, Presley Ruden, who played in the All Saints band.
Peeters’ mom said All Saints’ teachers and students have asked about her son during his service and have sent many packages and letters to him. “He thought he came here to just thank the fourth-graders for their letters,” she said.
Cpl. Peeters said he has many close-knit “families:” Holy Family (All Saints), the Marine Corps and his biological family. He felt his faith helped him through some challenging times during his service. “Some days you just wanted out. But I’d sit down and think or pray.”
This week Cpl. Peeters leaves for California to finish his service in the Marines. After his discharge he plans to spend the holidays with his family, do some skiing and return to UW-Whitewater to continue his education in January.
As he got ready to leave All Saints, his grandfather, Arthur Williamson, approached him and said, “When you’re done with the Marines, give the paratroopers a try.” Williamson was a paratrooper in the Army and served in Korea.
Cpl. Peeters said with a smile on his face that his grandfather often tries to tell him he should have enlisted in the Army instead of the Marines and probably will continue to do so after his discharge.