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Children at Increase Miller Elementary School sat with heroes—men who had served in Vietnam and Desert Storm; who had parachuted from airplanes and patrolled the eastern seaboard. First graders handed them handmade valentines. Older students heard about their experiences in the military and had the opportunity to ask questions.
This is a special twist on Valentines for Vets—an initiative that’s delivered Valentine’s Day cards to veterans for the past twenty-nine years.
New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald’s office arranged for local veterans Henry Bergson, Robert Detmer, Michael Dorio, Richard Romney, David Zapsky, John Santascorce, and Commissioner of Westchester County’s Veterans Service Agency Ronald Tocci to visit Meadow Pond Elementary School. Lewisboro Town Supervisor Peter Parsons and Westchester County Legislator Kitley Covill also attended, as did the Increase Miller Principal Kerry Ford and Assistant Principal Andrew Galotti.
After a welcome from Assemblyman Buchwald, the veterans briefly shared their stories.
Katonah resident Henry Bergson, a Captain in the U.S. Army, was stationed in Germany and Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. He spoke of the tradition of service in his family. His daughters, both graduates of John Jay High School, have served in the Peace Corps and the Army.
“For all veterans and those in active duty—even in this day of Facetime and Facebook—mail from home is critically important,” said Bergson.
David Zapsky, resident of Bedford Hills, was a staff sergeant in the U. S. Air Force. He served during Desert Storm and told students about the hot temperatures in Saudi Arabia—110 degrees during the day, and 90 degrees at night.
“What color was your uniform?” asked a student.
“Different colors of brown and beige with chocolate chips on it,” said Zapsky.
Commissioner Ronald Tocci, who served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division from 1966 to 1968, thanked the children for the valentines and reminded them that the military does more than fight.
“We take care of people in the lands we are trying to protect. We build schools and fix electricity. We are our nation’s goodwill ambassadors,” said Commissioner Tocci.
“What’s it like to jump out of a plane?” asked one student.
“It’s fun as long as everything goes right,” replied Commissioner Tocci.
Robert Detmer, a resident of Bedford who served as a medic in the U. S. Navy in 1964, spoke of the happiness he found making people’s lives better. “I learned to be thankful for everything I had.”
After the assembly, students gave Valentine’s Day cards to the veterans. The veterans also visited the first graders. The younger students gathered in small groups around each man and eagerly gave them the brightly colored cards of thanks and affection.