Honoring Veterans

Lessons in service wrapped in respect

Brendan Massa, a seventh grader at John Jay Middle School, was standing in the school cafeteria with his grandfather, Philip Harrison. The student took two photos out of his jacket pocket to show his grandfather--both were of Harrison as a young soldier: in one he’s holding a rifle, in the other he’s standing on a tank. “I was a sharpshooter and a photographer in Vietnam,” said  Harrison.

At John Jay Middle School’s Veterans Day Assembly, history walks into the school and delivers a lesson in service and civics wrapped in respect that no textbook could teach. It brings students and veterans together and honors and thanks all veterans. 

Bringing Students and Veterans together

During the breakfast provided by the JJMS PTO in the school cafeteria, approximately a dozen veterans and their middle school family members as well as student leaders enjoyed time together. "You're a lady veteran--that's cool!" one of the girls said to Michelle Petschek, who served in the Navy; they fist bumped. Other students joined in the conversation with visitors including John Lemke, the Chair of the Town of Lewisboro's Veterans Advisory Committee, and Eugene Tedaldi, one of two World War II veterans at the event.

The assembly in the school theater, attended by the veterans and all eighth graders, included student readings, a slide show tribute to 30 veterans—parents, grandparents, siblings and others connected to the John Jay community—and remarks by Principal Jeff Swiatowicz.

Students with John Lemke, Chair of Lewisboro's Veterans Advisory Committee

Principal Swiatowicz with WWII Veteran Daniel Sant

Thank you, veterans

“We recognize and appreciate you,” said Principal Swiatowicz, mentioning that his father was a Vietnam veteran. “We gather to honor American veterans and your willingness to sacrifice and serve for the common good.”

The program closed with a patriotic medley performed exuberantly on harmonica by Daniel Sant, a 96-year-old World War II veteran who lives in South Salem.

When asked if they had a message for the middle school students, World War II veteran and South Salem resident Dr. Tedaldi said, “Remember veterans and what they did for your country.” Lawrence Wagner, a veteran of the Vietnam War who was invited to the Assembly by his sixth-grade grandson Kyle O’Meara, said, “Enjoy the freedoms you have.”

Veteran Lawrence Wagner and family

Veteran Geoffrey Yorke and students