During the gathering of students, staff and community members in the gymnasium at Spring Grove Public School last week, there was laughter, music, silence and moments of deep respect: Respect for the men carrying the United States flag, respect for the speaker as he told about his time deployed in Iraq, and respect for those remembered that have and are giving their time to this country.
This year's Veterans Day program on Nov. 12 featured speeches by the Boys State and Girls State representatives as well as guest speaker Pastor James Scaife and musical selections by the Spring Grove High School choir.
Boys and Girls State speakers
Boys State and Girls State programs are both intensive studies of government that are hands-on.
The participants actually organize and participate in the various levels and branches of government from the township level all the way up to the state level. Josh Olerud was chosen to represent Spring Grove High School at Boys State this past summer.
Olerud remarked that what he learned the most from this experience was "how to be a proud, respectful and humble leader." He was elected sheriff for his week there. He added that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
"This experience gave me the opportunity to learn how to advance myself as a leader. It was a great week; thank you [American Legion] for giving me this opportunity."
Kayla Hahn was chosen as the representative for Girls State. "This was an amazing week; a you-had-to-be-there type of experience," she commented. "It was a busy and hard week, but it was a lot of fun. Being able to experience how government works hands-on was very interesting."
Hahn explained that during their week they collected socks for homeless veterans. By the end of the week, they had collected 400 pairs and $360.
"Thank you [American Legion] for giving me the opportunity to go; it was a week I'll never forget."
Scaife recounts war experiences
Pastor James Scaife is currently the interim pastor at Wilmington Lutheran Church in rural Spring Grove. He is also a veteran. He served as a chaplain in the United States Army Reserves from 2000-2007.
In October 2004, his unit, the 457th Transportation Battalion Headquarters Detachment, was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He reminded the audience that there are several holidays in the United States that are patriotic - Memorial Day, 4th of July, Patriots Day and Veterans Day. The holidays are for honoring and remembering veterans and military personnel.
"Whoever is teaching you geography and history is doing an important thing," he said to everyone in the audience and especially the students.
"Part of our nation's role as a world leader is to send our troops all over the world. It is important to know where these places are. Our troops go to areas that are hot or cold, strange places, a long way from their homes.
"It is a tough thing on families and soldiers. We need to remember this when we tell them thank you for what they are doing and for what they have done."
Pastor Scaife asked the audience to think about whom or to what the military personnel pledge their loyalty.
"They [military personnel] didn't pledge their loyalty to one single person which happens in other countries and thus divides the country. U.S. military personnel promise to uphold the Constitution.
"They know that even if they maybe didn't vote for the President that he is still their leader. Because of their loyalty to the Constitution they can separate their personal political feelings with their duty to their nation. This is very important; thank you veterans for promising to uphold our Constitution."
Scaife closed with a story from his deployment to Iraq. "We landed in Iraq on Dec. 6, 2004. Two days later we took our first casualties. A roadside bomb was detonated by a semi-truck. Two of the guys were in our unit; one was hurt, but walked away from it. The other was badly hurt and went by medevac to a base and then was flown to Germany to a hospital. Our unit drove back to the base; we didn't know if the soldier was alive.
"On Dec. 11th, a box was delivered to the company headquarters - it was a box of homemade Christmas cards, cookies and candy canes. We all sat around and enjoyed the things from the box - it really helped cheer us up.
"We found out that an elementary school from the town the unit was from had sent that box. It meant a lot to all of us to be remembered.
"I know Spring Grove has done many things like this and as a soldier, I thank you for doing things like this. Thank you for remembering the soldiers."