Area students salute veterans for their service

  • Erving Elementary School students greet veterans attending ceremonies honoring them at the school Friday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tom Travis, a Korean War veteran, reminds the audience that “we must never forget” the sacrifices made by military men and women to preserve our freedoms during ceremonies honoring veterans at the Erving Elementary School on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Clara Guidaboni speaks during ceremonies honoring veterans at the Erving Elementary School on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • An early Veterans Day observance ceremony was held at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Sunderland Town Hall on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Sunderland Elementary School Principal Benjamin F. Barshefsky reads Gov. Charlie Baker’s Veterans Day proclamation during an observance ceremony at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Town Hall on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Army Master Sgt. Erik Correa speaks to first-grade students in Aleshia Reid’s classroom at Sunderland Elementary School following an observation ceremony for Veterans Day on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • U.S. Airmen Yan Soto, left, and Tyler Corliss fold a flag during an early Veterans Day observance ceremony at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Sunderland Town Hall on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Van Dalsen, of Sunderland, speaks at an early Veterans Day observance ceremony at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Sunderland Town Hall on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • A thank-you letter to veterans is posted outside a Sunderland Elementary School classroom. Service members visited the school to speak with students following an early Veterans Day observance ceremony at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Sunderland Town Hall on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Marine Corps Reserve Lance Cpl. Skyler Randolph chats with second-graders Frank Wang and Mason Rounds in Samantha Marsh’s classroom at Sunderland Elementary School on Friday. Service members visited the school following an early Veterans Day observance ceremony at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Sunderland Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • U.S. Marines at an early Veterans Day observance ceremony at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Sunderland Town Hall on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • A thank-you letter and picture in appreciation of military veterans is posted on a board outside a classroom at Sunderland Elementary School. Service members visited the school to chat with students following an early Veterans Day observance ceremony at Veterans Memorial and Park outside Sunderland Town Hall on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Greenfield Mayor William Martin, right, and fellow veteran Bill Phelps pose with Federal Street Elementary School students following an early Veterans Day assembly on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/MAUREEN O’REILLY

Published: 11/8/2019 11:19:22 PM
Modified: 11/8/2019 11:19:07 PM

A circle is a symbol of eternity and wholeness, with no beginning and no end.

This makes it fitting that dozens of veterans, service members and Sunderland Elementary School students and staff lined the ring-shaped Veterans Memorial and Park on Friday, standing as proof that even in the most divisive political times, Americans can come together as family. The school held its 11th Veterans Day observance ceremony outside Town Hall to honor those who have served their country and to demonstrate to students the importance of appreciating the sacrifices made for them.

After a roughly hour-long ceremony, the service members joined the students at the school, where they visited classrooms and engaged with students, answering questions and sharing information about themselves. There were service members from Westover Air Reserve Base and University of Massachusetts Amherst Reserve Officer Training Corps, in addition to officers of Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295.

The event featured a reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, special readings from students, some patriotic songs, a reading of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Veterans Day proclamation and a flag-folding ceremony by U.S. Senior Airmen Yan Soto and Tyler Corliss.

Principal Benjamin F. Barshefsky emceed the ceremony and welcomed retired Lt. Col. Dan Van Dalsen, who has lived in Sunderland with his wife since July 1998.

According to Barshefsky’s comments, Van Dalsen, who helped organize Friday’s event, is a native Californian who joined the U.S. Air Force in 1963, when he was 17, and served as an enlisted man for the next 16 years. He attended the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, under Air Force sponsorship in the late 1970s and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in June 1980. Immediately following graduation, Van Dalsen was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served another 22 years. His final Air Force assignment was as the commander of Air Force ROTC Detachment 370 at UMass, where he worked from 1998 to 2001, retiring after 38 years of service.

Van Dalsen spoke to the crowd in the bitter cold and said the annual ceremony was started to help students understand why the United States has a Veterans Day.

“Although I know it can be fun to be out of class, this ceremony is about more than getting some free time outside of the classroom,” he said from the podium.

Van Dalsen explained Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, because armistice is to stop fighting. He said World War I formally ended when an armistice went into effect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first Armistice Day in 1919, and Congress voted in 1954 to strike the word “Armistice” and insert the word “Veterans” to honor everyone who has ever worn the uniform of the United States.

He told the attendees 1 percent of the nation serves in the military. He encouraged the students to always ask veterans about their lives and to thank them for their service.

“I guarantee that comment will be very much appreciated,” he said.

After the students walked back to the school, service members split up and visited classrooms to speak with the youngsters.

They talked about their careers, their uniforms and the specific tasks they perform in the military.

Greenfield

Students at Federal Street Elementary School celebrated Veterans Day on Friday with an assembly, where they invited community members, active military personnel and veterans.

About 10 veterans attended, including Mayor William Martin, who served as a combat medic in Vietnam.

“We want (students) to understand what these (veterans) are to the country,” said Principal Nancy Putnam.

An assembly celebrating veterans — particularly with veterans in attendance — is a way for students to understand the larger concepts of what military service means and who veterans are, said music teacher Gina Clark, who orchestrated the assembly.

Students sang songs and recited poetry to honor those who served — all practiced in Clark’s class. For Clark, Veterans Day is close to home: her stepson was just promoted to chief in the Navy. Clark added that Veterans Day touches many of her students, who shared about their family members in the military as their class practiced the songs.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” said Tracey Brooks, a Navy veteran, of hearing the second-graders sing “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Apart from seeing her granddaughter, Lennox Therian, and her classmates sing, it meant a lot, Brooks said, to see that the students understand the role veterans play to the country.

“Our country is the work of all the people, all U.S. citizens,” Brooks said, adding that as a service member, “it gives you a great pride to serve our country and to know that you are protecting your friends, your family and those you don’t even know.”

Speaking after the assembly, Martin said he enjoyed the inclusion of the “A Veteran Is” activity, one that he has seen veterans’ groups statewide bring to schools to help ignite conversations at home about what it means to be a veteran.

Accompanying Martin was his long-time friend and fellow veteran, Bill Phelps, who, the two said, have gone from Little League to Vietnam and back.

“I see it as a rebirth of patriotism,” Phelps said, because it shows students that “veteran” is a large and mixed group.

Erving

“Land of the free because of the brave” were words spoken by Korean War veteran Tom Travis at a ceremony celebrating Veterans Day at the Erving Elementary School on Friday morning, reminding the crowd that “we must never forget” the sacrifices made by our service men and women to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.

Area veterans were invited to the school where they were fed breakfast before being honored during an all-school ceremony attended by students, faculty members, and friends and family of the veterans.

Each veteran was given a flower and introduced with a brief description of his or her service, then escorted to a waiting seat by a student or by students who were related.

The kindergarten students, each holding a flag, led those attending in the Pledge of Allegiance as veterans held their hand over their hearts or saluted. The fifth- and sixth-grade chorus sang songs and some students spoke about Veterans Day.

Some of the veterans spoke at the end of the ceremony, reminding the crowd to remember the prisoners of war and those missing in action in Vietnam, and encouraging everyone to be kind to each other. Another speaker thanked everyone for coming to his birthday party, having been born on Veterans Day.




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