Students learn why we honor veterans

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Dakota Cross, 9, dressed in patriotic colors and her Girl Scout Brownie vest, went over to her great-grandfather as he sat in the library at H.W. Good Elementary School and planted a kiss on his cheek.

On Thursday, she was among students at two schools who recognized more than 260 military service members in honor of Veterans Day on Sunday.

Cross sat on the lap of Alan Criswell, 79, of Elizabeth Township, as about 65 veterans gathered for a flag ceremony and luncheon put on by kindergarten through fourth-grade students at the Herminie school in Sewickley Township.

Criswell, who served in the Navy on a destroyer during the Korean War, said he is glad the students have been learning about the military because his service was meant to uphold the freedom of Americans.

“That's the reason we sacrificed what we did — so they could go to Henry Good School,” he said.

This is the fifth year students in Yough School District have recognized veterans.

In Derry Township, about 200 veterans spent time in the cafeteria for “Bring a Veteran to Lunch” at Grandview Elementary, which served as a lesson for students, said the organizer, art teacher and Navy veteran Brian Sabo.

“These little ones don't know what they're celebrating,” Sabo said.

Samantha Carbonara wore her Army fatigues as she and her younger brother shared lunch, talking over chicken strips and chocolate milk.

“I think it is definitely something that will open their eyes,” Carbonara said.

Carbonara, a 2009 Derry graduate, has been in the Army for about a year. It was her first time at the lunch with Gabriel Carbonara, a second-grader.

For each of three lunch periods, high school band members performed an Armed Forces medley recognizing each branch of the military. Honor guards from Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts in Blairsville and Derry marched into the cafeteria with flags.

The lunch was started about five years ago. Derry VFW Quartermaster Chris Johnston, an Army veteran, said he hopes to make the lunch a tradition for the four posts.

The students lunched with young and old veterans; some in uniforms or fatigues, others wearing hats or T-shirts identifying them as a service member.

Some students got an education simply by asking questions of a veteran seated nearby. Navy veteran Bob Hainan told students about his uniform as he ate with his grandson, Kendrick Jones, a kindergartner. Delano Beck fielded questions about his Army service.

“I would certainly love this to continue,” said Beck, who ate with his grandson, Blake Cecchini, a third-grader.

Third-grade teacher Nick Chimino got in on the action by inviting his Air Force veteran grandfather, Bob Alexander, to lunch.

Alexander served during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He will attend an event Friday at an Indiana County school with his other grandchildren.

“I think this is something nice to give back to the vets because they gave so much to us,” Chimino said. “It's one thing we can do to show our respect.”

H.W. Good third-grade teacher Leann Steban, who organized the Yough elementary program with first-grade teacher Stephanie Bogac, said she has made an effort to show students just how many veterans are in the community.

“I think it's important for them to understand what a veteran is and how they have fought for us and the freedoms of our country,” she said. “Sometimes, they're just not recognized.”

After a flag ceremony by Girl Scout Troop 21086 and a portrayal by Armbrust veteran Jim Smith of a Civil War drummer, each grade performed a song. Individual students presented historical information on Veterans Day, the Purple Heart, each branch of the service and the American flag. During her introduction to the program, Bogac emphasized the importance of the holiday.

“We recognize that all of our veterans have given something of themselves, and some have paid the ultimate sacrifice and given all,” she said.

Stacey Federoff and Renatta Signorini are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Federoff can be reached at 724-836-6660 or Signorini can be reached at 724-837-5374 or

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