By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Students sang and played patriotic songs, recited hand-written testimonies and poems and waved American flags during All Saints Catholic School’s Veterans Day program Nov. 10. A hand-drawn “Thank You” sign hung on the gym wall behind them, recognizing all branches of the military.
Parents, grandparents and veterans joined the student body at the school to remember and honor soldiers of past and present.
Donning a patriotic scarf, All Saints Principal Jeanne Von Feldt told the crowd, “This is not just a day to commemorate those who fought, but to focus on what they fought for: our freedom.”
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba put the sacrifices of American soldiers into perspective in an address. He explained that 1.3 million Americans have died in combat, and 31 wars have been fought around the world since the Revolutionary War. He urged the crowd not to forget about those who have come back injured or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He encouraged adults in the audience to vote for candidates who support benefits for veterans. “Let us never allow (veterans) to be forgotten in their time of need,” he said.
Command Sergeant Major Walton Jones of the First U.S. Army, stationed at the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Illinois, spoke to the students and guests about the meaning of Veterans Day. He explained that Nov. 11 is a significant day in history, as it marks the formal end to World War I. He encouraged the students to seek out veterans and learn more about their experiences. “Get to know the history of this country from the eyes of a veteran,” he said.
Through poems and letters, students shared their thoughts on what Veterans Day means to them. Seventh-grader Makenzie Alfaro said she knows first-hand the kinds of sacrifices soldiers and their families make, as her father is a veteran. During deployments, “I missed him so much and I know he missed me, too.” Face Time (video chat) and letters helped her keep in touch, but she said some deployed soldiers aren’t able to communicate often. She expressed empathy for soldiers and their families who have not been able to keep in constant contact. She offered words of gratitude to those who serve or who have served. “Thank you with all my heart for doing whatever it is you have done.”
Seventh-grader Yuliana Marceleno expressed her desire to serve the United States in the military someday. “I scare my mom every time I say that,” she joked, “but I just want to give back.”
Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Davenport honored veterans the week of Nov. 8. Here is a sampling of their activities:
St. Joseph Catholic School-DeWitt, following an assembly, asked veterans to form a reception line so students, staff and guests could shake their hands.
Holy Trinity Catholic Schools students served a turkey dinner to veterans at the elementary school in West Point. Elementary, junior high and high school students from the West Point and Fort Madison schools participated. The dinner followed a Mass at St. Mary Parish-West Point and an assembly in the elementary school gym.
Burlington Notre Dame teacher Ron Teater spoke of his experiences as a submarine navigator in the U.S. Navy during a Burlington Catholic Schools ceremony honoring veterans.
Assumption High School students in Davenport participated in a prayer service and received a message from diocesan priest Father Bill Kneemiller about his military service and the importance of faith.