Local military veterans were showered with admiration and respect at Stranahan Elementary School's first Veterans Day Assembly.
Army Sgt. Justin Kuehnle, 26, had to hold back tears when he addressed the 400 students thanking them for honoring him. The parent of two Stranahan students served in a Special Forces group stationed in Iraq and Iran. Although injured, he was one of three men to survive an explosion from an Improvised Explosive Device, or IED.
At the assembly Friday, Elizabeth Bostdorff, a representative from Congressman Bob Latta’s office, presented Mr. Kuehnle with an American flag that was recently flown over the Washington State Capitol building during Veterans Week ceremonies.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be recognized in such a way,” Sergeant Kuehnle said. “This means so much. I lost a lot of buddies and brothers. It’s so hard. This assembly is teaching kids and I hope it continues.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Sylvania students honor military veterans
Dignitaries were invited to the ceremony at the Sylvania Schools building that took place in the school gym, which was decorated in patriotic red, white, and blue and filled with letters and medals the children created this week to show their respect to the “heroes.”
The students and staff invited war veterans they were related to or knew, and also included invitations at voting locations on Election Day.
Student Evan Vasbinder, 11, representing a local Boy Scout troop, greeted visitors at the door.
“It means a lot to respect the people who fought and died in the war,” he said.
Principal Jeremy Bauer told the students that this week, which began with Veterans Day, was a special week because veterans “protect our freedoms." He explained that many freedoms are enjoyed by the children in the United States, such as outdoor recess, which some children in the world cannot partake in.
The assembly began with the formal Posting of the Colors by the 180th Fighter Wing Color Guard. Throughout, the children sang heartfelt songs that declared a love for the country, from the "Star-Spangled Banner" to "This Land is Your Land." An emotional event, many in the audience were seen wiping away tears.
“This is a great program the schools are doing. They learn about our country and how important it is to defend it, and they learn to carry on the responsibilities of their elders,” said veteran Wesley Falls, 83.
Mr. Falls, part of the Marine Corps, said he served in the Korean War and represented the American Legion Joseph W. Diehn Post 468.
The Northview High School Band ended the event with a performance of "Taps."
Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.