MC Middle School salutes veterans

By on November 14, 2018

Manheim Central Middle School assistant principal Stephen Richards (left) and principal Krystle Nemeth (right) welcomed Veterans Day keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Tad Oelstrom, U.S. Air Force (retired). They are standing in front of a flag created by eighth grade students. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

 

The auditorium at Manheim Central Middle School was packed Monday, Nov. 12 as learners and staff saluted veterans. As students entered for the school-wide assembly, a PowerPoint displayed photos of veterans related to current middle school students.

Learners involved in Boy Scouts presented the colors. The school’s choral group, the Meistersingers, performed patriotic music including the national anthem and “My Country Tis of Thee.”

Assistant principal Stephen Richards coordinated the event. In reflecting on the importance of recognizing veterans and current military personnel, he said 93 percent of the US population has never served in the military. In preparation for the event, he researched Veterans Day.

“I always thought Veterans Day had an apostrophe, instead I found that the ‘s’ signifies the plurality rather than the person,” he said. “As citizens of this country we have a responsibility to honor our veterans and our service men and women in uniform.”

Keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Tad Oelstrom, U.S. Air Force (retired) provided insight into his military career of over 35 years. As a command pilot, Oelstrom has flown more than 20 types of fighter aircraft, served in six different countries, and participated in combat in both Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia. He is a Vietnam and Gulf War veteran. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1965, he later served as the 14th superintendent of the academy (1997 to 2000).

“When I graduated from the Air Force Academy, it was inevitable that I would go to Vietnam. The fighting there was mostly in a hot jungle climate,” Oelstrom told students. “To prepare for that, we had survival training, which was probably the most difficult training in my career. It included three or four days spent in a small box-like cell to simulate what it might be like as a POW.”

Although he said he could tell hundreds of “war stories,” he told only one, and that was about his time in Vietnam.

Oelstrom said that his squadron was scrambled to provide support to troops engaged on the ground near Dak To. They dropped their ordinance and on the last pass, his engine was shot out, but he was able to recover it. Two weeks later he went to the hospital in Da Nang and while he was there, encountered an injured soldier who thanked him for being on that bombing run.

“He was on the ground, and our support helped them make it out,” Oelstrom explained.

He encouraged students to never pass the opportunity to “honor our flag and show your patriotism.”

“Most of us of a certain age remember a time when our country was not under the threat of terrorism, and we can tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing on 9-11. We don’t want 9-11 to ever happen again,” he said.

After serving in war, he said “Uncle Sam asked me to promote the cause of peace in countries around the world.”

He was part of a multi-national force to preserve peace in Kurdistan.

“Growing up (near Milwaukee, Wisc.), I had no idea where my career path would lead. I thought I was going to grow up to be a farmer in my village,” said Oelstrom. “When I got a bit older I thought about becoming an engineer. Military service didn’t really enter my mind until I was a high school junior, and that was because of the free education.”

He gave students considering a career in military service the same advice he gave parents and prospective students at the Air Force Academy.

“Before you go out the door, stand back and look at yourself in the mirror,” he advised. “Look yourself straight in the eye and say ‘I am ready to go into the military. I really want to serve my country.’ If you can do that, you’re ready to serve — you should enter the military because you want to, not because someone else wants you to or thinks you should.”

When asked by a student about his biggest accomplishment, he said it’s the person he left behind to fill his job. “It’s an honor to have had a small role in shaping so many people along the way,” he said.

Veterans and current military personnel from the community also attended the event. E8 Master Sergeant. Melvin Moore, whose 30-years of services has included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said his grandson, middle school student Landen Statts, asked him to attend the event.

“I’m proud to serve my country and glad that I could share part of this day with my grandson,” Moore said.

He and the other service men and women received a standing ovation and a clap out at the end of the event.

“In our schools we educate our learners and help provide a moral foundation,” Richard said. “Honoring our veterans and service men and women is a way to connect learners and their community.”

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

 

A quartet of Boy Scouts took care of the Presentation of Colors. They are (left to right) Lucas Campbell, Braylon Vuong, Adam Tshudy, and Syrus Lubeskie.

he middle school’s choral group, the Meistersingers, under the direction of Stephanie Magaro, performed patriotic music including the national anthem and “My Country Tis of Thee.” Shown (not in order) are vocalists Hannah Hostetter, Leah McMurry, Haley Pogue, Kaitlyn Beachy, Lexi Groff, Emmy Weaver, Samara Bucher, Debbie Showers, Linsay Insyxiengmay, Makenzie Arment, Heidi Enterline, Katelynn Haugh, Ava Graff, Payton Snyder, Helen Slacik, Cailey Hoover, Hailey Kowalski, Julianna Lindberg, Kate Haldeman, Heaven Irish-Fyke, Belle Bonanno, Reagan Ibach, Julia Rohrer, and Katy Holsinger. (Photos submitted by MCMS)

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