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Veterans speak at Martinsburg school

Event designed to teach students about sacrifices

Event designed to teach students about sacrifices

November 09, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? Men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces were honored Friday at Spring Mills Middle School in celebration of Veterans Day.

This is the third year all veterans were honored at the school, librarian Cindy Woods said.

More than 700 students, faculty members, veterans and guests assembled in the gymnasium to participate in the two-hour event.

Music was performed by the school chorus, more than 20 local veterans were acknowledged, and the guest speaker was World War II veteran Vincent Vicari, 85, who served with the Army's 101st Airborne Division.

Vicari said he was an aide to Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and fought at the Battle of the Bulge.

"None of us are entitled to our freedom," he said. "We have it because of sacrifices made by those before us."

The audience gave Vicari a standing ovation.

Lesson a 'whole-school effort'

Veterans Day committee member Donna Allen, who teaches eighth grade, said "This is a whole-school effort ... all the teachers worked together to do something."

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"We are trying to make the kids appreciate what others have done for them," Allen said.

School Principal Marc Arvon said his grandparents came from Greece, and it was instilled into his family to appreciate America and the privileges it gave them.

"The main thing is Veterans Day is not just a day off school. We live in the greatest country on earth because people made sacrifices to make it that way, and it is essential to teach this."

Arvon said for the past two weeks the staff integrated studies with writing assignments and projects about Veterans Day.

Woods said about 12 veterans came to the school and spoke to students, and each presentation was videotaped and shared by other classes.

"The kids sat in rapt attention hearing the veterans' stories," she said.

In addition to studying the different wars, "hopefully they will find a better way to settle our world's problems than fighting," Woods said.

Vets glad to share experiences

World War II veteran Karl Rohrer was in England in 1944 with the 100th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. He was a ball turret and tail gunner in a B-17 ? "spam cans," he called them, and flew 46 missions.

Rohrer served for 33 years, beginning in 1943 when he was 17, and is a veteran of the Korean and the Vietnam wars.

Rohrer met his wife, Nelda Brewer Rohrer, who was in the Women's Army Corps and was attached to the Army Air Corps. Rohrer joined the service in 1944 and served two years as a recruiter.

"I think it's wonderful what they are doing to educate the younger generations," Nelda Rohrer said.

"These kids don't know how lucky they are to have any opportunity to have a program like this in their school," said Raymond Ocheltree, 90, a World War II veteran who also fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Ocheltree served from 1940 to 1945 and was with the 3rd Armored Division and helped liberate a concentration camp in Germany.

He said he shook hands with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery.

Sixth-grade student Cory Fournier, 11, said he and his classmates in Mrs. Dirting's class made stars to wear on their clothes. This is his first year participating in the Veterans Day event.

Denise Siebert of Baltimore was visiting one of the school staff members and was invited to the event.

Siebert's 37-year-old son has completed one tour in Iraq and is waiting to learn if he is to return. He will know Nov. 15, she said. Her nephew, 33, has been serving in Baghdad since July.

"I worry about them, but it's a decision these men have made to give us our freedom," Siebert said.

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