Veterans Day ceremony a fitting way to honor Americans for military service

November 09, 2012|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Veterans salute the flag during the playing of military branch songs at a Veterans Day program at Boonsboro High School on Friday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Boonsboro High School junior Etta Short said the Veterans Day ceremony that was held Friday in the school gymnasium was a fitting way to honor Americans for their military service.

But despite the patriotic music that was played and the speeches that were given, she said she believed veterans hardly get the amount of respect they deserve.

“I don’t think some people realize how much they did for our country,” she said.

Mannie Gentile, a Navy veteran and interpretive park ranger at Antietam National Battlefield, told the students in his keynote address that many of them were no different than veterans who have gone off to fight in the past.

“When we think of Veterans Day and veterans in particular, we generally think of them as older people,” Gentile said. “But we need to remember that when they entered the service ... they were teenagers just like all of you.”

He told the students the stories of Charles King and John Cook — two child soldiers who fought for the Union during the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.

He said both of the young soldiers were allowed to enlist as children because they played instruments and weren’t expected to fight.

But when the pitch of the battle heightened, Cook and King were called to action.

Gentile said the 14-year-old Cook helped fire a cannon to drive back Confederate assaults. For his bravery, he received the Medal of Honor.

As Cook’s fight was ending, King, an 11-year-old drummer boy, was enlisted as a stretcher bearer to help carry the wounded. Gentile said King was hit by shrapnel and died three days later.

“When (John) Cook and Charley King went off to war, they marched with an army of young men who were committed to serving their country,” Gentile said.

He said all veterans march off “into the great and potentially dangerous unknown in defense of the freedoms we have here in the United States — important freedoms of speech, assembly, religion (and) being able to elect our leaders through a Democratic process.”

Hagerstown resident Harold DeLauter said he served in the Army as a radio operator in Alaska during the Korean War.

The 82-year-old DeLauter said he has attended the Boonsboro High School ceremony for the past 10 to 15 years.

“It was fantastic,” he said.

DeLauter said that if it weren’t for the sacrifice of veterans in the 20th century, he believed the Germans, Japanese and former Soviet Union would have dominated the world.

He said he wished Vietnam veterans received more recognition.

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