Niagara Gazette — A national program designed to put veterans in the classrooms of America took aim at Harry F. Abate Elementary Wednesday. The result brought more than 30 veterans - serving in conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq - through the school's doors for a chance to sit down and converse with the youngest students in the Niagara Falls City School District.
As part of the Take A Vet To School Day, a program made possible by The History Channel and Time Warner Cable, the veterans were honored by a special ceremony featuring medal presentations, a flag ceremony and a state proclamation presented by Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane.
"There are some things we just cannot teach," Falls district superintendent Cynthia Bianco said. "What it means to serve our country, what it means to sacrifice for all of us. It's these things which you are the teachers of."
"Listen to what the veterans have to say," Maziarz told the students in attendance. "You can learn from their life experiences."
Many of the veterans in attendance – and many other audience members – found themselves getting emotional as they were introduced by name, one-by-one to large ovations. The veterans then turned the tables on the gathered students, giving them a rousing applause after they sang patriotic songs and read special poems for the occasion.
The medal ceremony also brought some in the audience to tears.
Sanborn resident Bruce Poole, an Army National Guard member who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005, was on hand to receive a medal and said the event was a "humbling" experience.
"You never expect things like this," Poole said. "We have close friends whose kids go to school here and when they found out about this program, I was the first person they thought of."
He said the attitudes of the children involved is really refreshing, especially with the political climate of the day and the sometimes lack of patriotism in the United States.