Students and teachers at Columbus Elementary School had the opportunity to honor some of Westchester’s veterans on November 10th this year. The 2nd annual Take a Vet to School Day, celebrated the day before Veterans Day, was a wonderful way to say thank you to the men and women who have served our country and also a great learning opportunity for young students. The event was the brain-child of 5th grade teacher Christine Galbo, whose father served in Vietnam. Mrs. Galbo, along with numerous teachers and staff members, worked tirelessly months in advance to plan a morning of festivities for more than 60 local veterans.
The first event of the day was a PTA sponsored breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The cafeteria was bedecked in red, white and blue while student representatives (many of whom had grandparents, parents, and friends as their visiting vet) welcomed the guests with coffee, bagels and muffins. The atmosphere was lively as uniformed veterans intermingled with teachers and schoolchildren.
From there, the vets were escorted to individual classrooms to share their stories and experiences with the kids. Each class hosted from 2 to 6 veterans. Many shared photographs, maps, and showed off the clothing and uniforms they wore while they were overseas. The kids were fascinated, asking thoughtful questions and listening intently to the responses.
Finally, at 10:00, the whole school gathered in the gym for a 45 minute assembly to formally honor the visitors. The veterans marched in and took seats of honor at the front of the room. We were especially honored this year to have World War II Navy Wave Ensign Jean Otto MacIntosh lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremony began with our own Veterans Honor Guard presenting the flags, then Principal Michael Cunzio welcoming the crowd gathered. Speakers included Superintendent Dr. Susan Guiney, Mrs. Galbo, Mr. Mayer and County Legislator Margaret Cunzio who proclaimed November 10th as “Take a Veteran to School Day”. Fifth grade Boy Scouts assisted in creating a large American flag in the gymnasium. Local Brownie Troop 1180 collected food outside the Acme grocery store to donate to the Montrose Veterans Food Bank. Volunteer Coordinator Duke Sarles gladly accepted the donations explaining the extent of the need to help so many families of veterans after they return from service.
The highlights of the ceremony included a performance by the members of the school’s chorus and band singing a medley of the armed services theme songs, and then a slideshow put together by Mrs. Galbo of pictures of the veterans from their days in the service.
It was an emotional and heart-warming day and one that will not soon be forgotten by all in attendance.