Schools honor Veterans

Published 11:22 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The cafeteria at Hillpoint Elementary School was filled with patriotic pride Tuesday.

American flags and red, white and blue balloons decorated the serving line. Students took their food to the tables to eat with veterans. The names of teachers who are former military servicemen and women were attached to the wall.

In a corner, 9-year-old Colin Bales hung a letter to his grandfather on the “Wall of Honor,” alongside dozens of letters to and from veterans and active duty military.

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“Dear grandpa, Thank you, for serving our country,” the letter reads. “Thank you fighting for your life.”

The letter is titled “The veteran, My hero.”

“This is a big military area,” said Hillpoint principal Ronald Leigh, whose own father did two tours in Vietnam. “A lot of our parents are military. A lot of parents are deployed. Some kids have two parents on deployment.”

Hillpoint, as did many Suffolk schools, took special measures to remember the holiday. A screen flashed messages about why Veterans Day exists and how “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written.

Bob Starowicz, a special education teacher at Hillpoint and a 24-year veteran, said it is harder to explain to children what the military and Veterans Day are all about.

“I try to explain to them they need the high school diploma,” Starowicz said, noting that in his day many young people went into the military when they did not want to finish high school. These days, the military requires a high school diploma or equivalent to sign up.

“I tell them they need to get an education,” Starowicz said. “It’s easier when your buddy’s dad is in the military. They can understand on their level.”

Starowicz, whose son has done two tours in Iraq and is set to be deployed to Afghanistan, said Hillpoint takes special measures to emphasize the importance of the military to the students and honor the teachers who have served.

“They do a great job here,” Starowicz said. “We’ve got kids signing the Pledge of Allegiance. There’s a lot of patriotic pride in this school.”