Giving a salute to veterans

Anne Marie Amacher
Veteran Tom Simmons congratulates students Kennedi McIntyre and Ty Harmsen at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport for respectful treatment of the colors (American flag). See additional Veterans Day coverage on Page 4.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — A shadow theater, sign language, music and a veteran’s in-person thank you highlighted the annual Veterans Day celebration at All Saints Catholic School.

Veterans, students and parents filled the gymnasium and most of the cafeteria during the Nov. 6 celebration, held five days before Veterans Day. Members of American Legion Post 26 presented colors to start the celebration. Recitation of the Star Spangled Banner, Pledge of Allegiance and prayer followed.

“All gave some, some gave all. This is a truth that veterans know above all others,” Principal Jeanne Von Feldt said in her welcome address to the veterans. “By being here today and taking time to reflect on the service and sacrifice of veterans, you demonstrate that this is more than a catchy, patriotic phrase. It illustrates that you understand, whether through your own service or through the service of others, the truth veterans know all too well: no one leaves the military unchanged.

“For some there are physical injuries that drastically changed life as they knew it in the blink of an eye. For others, the wounds may be invisible, but the pain is very real. It isn’t an easy journey for our brave men and women as they work to overcome the challenges they face as a result of their service. But our veterans have never sought out the easy path,” Von Feldt said.

“Each one of you has sacrificed, and we would like to thank you for that solemn commitment.… 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 from All Saints Catholic School.’”

The school’s band and students from each grade level had something to offer throughout the ceremony: music, songs, poems and thank-yous.
LTC Leonard Sloat of the First Army at the Rock Island, Ill., Arsenal spoke. He has been in the military in various roles for 32 years and has served several tours overseas. He described a veteran as a man or woman who leaves his or her family to serve the United States wherever they are assigned.

Veterans Day was established following World War I, which ended 100 years ago. “They thought there would never be another war. There was, but we still have Veterans Day to recognize all those who have served, stood up and protected our freedom here and abroad.”

Sloat said he and his family recite the Lord’s Prayer every night, give thanks for something from that day and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
After his talk, Von Feldt recalled a phone call she received while working on a Friday after school. The caller with a gruff voice wanted to talk to the principal. She cringed, thinking the caller was going to complain about something. When she identified herself as the principal, the caller, Tom Simmons, said he wanted to thank her and her students.

She called Simmons to the front of the gym to finish the story. The veteran called up seventh-grade students Ty Harmsen and Kennedi McIntyre. A third student, Michael Stieger, was away from school that day.

Simmons said he was driving by the school when he saw the three students taking down the flag from the flagpole. “They were at attention. They treated the colors with respect. I was blown away. I want you to know how much that means to a veteran.” He shook hands with the two students and thanked them.

Afterwards, fifth-grade teacher Julie McCreary sang American the Beautiful while all the fifth-grade students performed the song in sign language. To close the event, students moved into the cafeteria and veterans remained or moved into the gym. Doors between the two rooms were closed and lights turned off.

Eighth-graders presented a “shadow theater” for the veterans, performed to the song, “Read All About It” by Emeli Sande. This performance used special lighting and shadow figures to tell four unique stories that honored veterans and military personnel for their sacrifices and protection of Americans’ freedom.

“If you look closely, you will see words, formations and silhouettes that represent each branch of our military somewhere along the way,” Von Feldt explained. “While this is only a glimpse of those many sacrifices, we hope that our veterans and active military personnel feel honored and appreciated today. This is a unique way for us to show that gratitude. Thank you for coming.”

After veterans and family members were dismissed, the students viewed the shadow theater performance. An encore performance will take place during the Christmas program so that more parents can see it.

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