By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Veterans, family members and students packed All Saints Catholic School gym and cafeteria Nov. 9 for the annual Veterans Day celebration. They were among several diocesan Catholic schools that honored veterans last week. At All Saints, American Legion Post 26 presented the color guard to open the celebration. The school band performed the Star Spangled Banner, attendees said the pledge of allegiance and a prayer was read.
Principal Jeanne VonFeldt welcomed everyone. “When Francis Scott Key wrote the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ almost 200 years ago, he called America, ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ Those words are as true today as they were then. Throughout this nation’s history, America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coastguardsmen have bravely answered the call to defend our freedom to aid our friends and allies, and to turn back aggressors.”
VonFeldt continued, “We can never fully repay our debt of gratitude to the more than 650,000 American service members who died in battle or the more than 1.4 million who were wounded. We can however, recognize and thank the 25 million veterans still living today.”
She noted that the words inscribed on the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., states: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” Those words apply equally to many of our World War I, World War II, Vietnam War and Gulf War veterans, she said. “They apply to today’s active duty service members — tomorrow’s veterans — who are helping to maintain peace throughout the world.
“Today, it is our privilege to say thank you to all of America’s veterans, to let them know that we appreciate them for their service and honor them for their sacrifices. The price of freedom is high. We cannot afford to forget those willing to pay it. There are not words big enough. There is not a hug strong enough. There is not a smile wide enough. All I can offer is thank you. You are our heroes!”
Major Charles Romero of Headquarters First Army on Arsenal Island, Ill., thanked the school for inviting veterans to the celebration. He told the crowd that it is important to honor the men and women who have served near and far for Americans’ freedom “and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Students in grades kindergarten through eighth sang songs, read poems and more. VonFeldt stood in front of the crowd with first-grader Emalyn Costello, who held a medallion that her great-uncle, EJ Degan, sent to her. She also was presented with an American flag that had flown in Iraq, where Degan served four tours of duty. The flag was raised at the assembly.
Abby Costello, Emalyn’s mom, said she invited Degan to the assembly. He had served as chief in command in the Army and helped plan Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now he works at the Pentagon as a civilian.
Degan was unable to attend the All Saints assembly but sent a box containing the medallion, which he had in his pocket for all four tours. He told Emalyn she could keep the medallion. He also sent an American flag that was flown in Iraq after the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime. Degan received the flag and gave it to his grandfather. When his grandfather died, the flag was returned to Degan.
During the assembly at All Saints, the flag was placed on a pole in the gymnasium. Afterwards, the flag was folded and returned to the family. The flag will be returned to Degan.