By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — A surprise letter from an All Saints Catholic School parent deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom arrived just in time for a Veterans Day celebration Nov. 7 at school.
Fifth-grade teacher Eileen O’Brien called seventh-grader Caleb and fifth-grader Makenzie Alfaro to the front of the school gym during an all-school assembly.
O’Brien read a letter from the students’ father, Sgt. Antonio Alfaro, who is deployed in the Middle East.
In the letter he thanked everyone for their support.
“I distinctly remember the Veterans Day assembly that you put on last year. It was very moving, especially knowing that in a few short months from that point my family and I were preparing for me to leave each other.” He noted that he was sure this year’s assembly would be good because each year’s celebration builds on the next.
Alfaro said he had talked with Makenzie recently by phone. She wanted to know what it is like where he is stationed and what he has seen. “Unfortunately I cannot talk about some things due to the mission, but here is a bit that I can talk about:”
He said being in the dessert feels like being in an oven at first. Temperatures climbed into the 140s some days, but it is better now at around 90 degrees during the day. “It rained here last week for the first time in almost half a year. That’s a long time to go without much rain.”
Alfaro has seen camels, goats, sheep and mountain rams. He has been to the Persian Gulf and the Dead Sea. He had sent a PowerPoint presentation for classes to view.
Before the assembly, veterans arrived at the school to visit classrooms and have lunch. The Veteran Color Guard from the American Legion in Davenport opened the assembly with presentation of colors. Students led the Pledge of Allegiance. Veterans and their families, seated in the school gym, received a tribute from the students.
Children in kindergarten through second grade sang the song “Thank a Vet.” Father William Kneemiller, a chaplain in the Army Reserves, offered a prayer. The pastor of parishes in Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Oxford Junction and Toronto also encouraged students to pray the rosary and to pray at home that night to thank veterans for serving their country.
Fr. Kneemiller gave special recognition to veterans who served in the Vietnam War. “They didn’t receive the support that our vets get today or those who served before them.” He prayed for the safety, health and families of those serving today. All in attendance then recited the Our Father.
After the All Saints Catholic School band played the Star Spangled Banner, Principal Jeanne VonFeldt said it is a blessing to live in the United States today. She told the veterans, “We love you and thank you for our freedom.”
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said, “Wouldn’t this be great if all of our schools celebrated like this today!”
He encouraged the students to think of those men and women serving the United States today and to pray for them. The mayor also suggested a visit to the Rock Island Arsenal cemetery where thousands of individuals who served the nation are buried. “All gave some and some gave all.”
Fifth-graders presented a performance of “Who is a Veteran,” showing that veterans are men and women serving in war or peace time, stateside or overseas.
The middle-school chorus sang “God Bless the USA.” Fourth-graders read the veterans’ names submitted by families along with their branch of service and the time when they served. Those whose names were not read were invited to provide that information at the microphone.
Third-graders recited a poem “Home of the Brave” and middle-school students read poems or letters they had written to the veterans. The assembly ended with the band playing the school song.
By Anne Marie Amacher