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Yough students salute veterans

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Handing out cards to veterans Gary and Arthur Hoyle of West Newton at Yough Intermediate Middle School's Veterans Day ceremony is Jessica Mencer, who was one of many students who made homemade thank you cards for the veterans.
Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran Steve Mihalko of Lowber was honored by his grandson Logan Kunkle, 10, at Yough Intermediate Middle School's Veterans Day ceremony.
Taps was played at Yough Intermediate Middle School's Veterans Day ceremony by (from left) Julian Hixson, 13, Samantha Snow, 13, Ryan Patricio, 13, Joshua Schuster, 12, and Anthony Ohler, 12.

An audience filled with Yough Intermediate Middle School students and veterans alike were quiet and thoughtful as they listened to the short and poignant speech that was delivered by the Veterans Day celebration keynote speaker and Yough alumni Cpl. Brandon Chase.

“I think of three things when I think of a veteran, and that is honor, courage and commitment, and I actually learned what those meant when I was a student here,” Chase said. “Honor is what it meant to be a student here and walk these halls. I learned courage as I stood up for myself and for my friends, and I learned commitment from my sports and from my studies. I learned all of this from the teachers and faculty here, and if it wasn't for all of you sitting here today, I wouldn't be here. I learned to do the right thing and to stand up for myself. It's easy to give up, but it takes everything to hold your head up high and to keep going — to go against the flow, and I want to thank all of those veterans who have gone before me.”

This was the second year for the veterans program at the school that welcomed dozens of veterans from all wars from all over the area.

“Freedom is never free,” Yough Intermediate principal Anthony DeMaro said. “This afternoon, as we reflect on the blessings of our liberty, let us never forget that we cannot rightfully celebrate the joy of our freedom without remembering the great price paid for that freedom. So today, it is my privilege to say thank you to all of American's veterans for your quiet courage and exemplary service. To let you know, we are grateful and acknowledge your many sacrifices and accomplishments.”

The program included several songs played by the band, and students who have relatives in the service were asked to come forward and place a star of the Wreath on Honor as a tribute to that veteran.

“I loved this,” said Vietnam and Desert Storm Army veteran Steve Mihalko, who was honored at the program by his grandson, Logan Kunkle, 10. “This is a small-town America honor and it's this way all throughout the country. There are less and less of us every year, and we really appreciate these events.”

Students also distributed handmade cards to the veterans at the program.

“I did this because they fought for our freedom,” Jessica Mencer, 12, said of making the cards.

Mencer gave homemade cards to veteran Gary Hoyle and his father Arthur Hoyle, a WWII veteran from West Newton.

“I think this is really neat,” said Gary Hoyle of the program, adding that his father enjoys going to the special tributes. “He really enjoys this; he loves to get out and be a part of these.”

The story of “taps” was recited and the Mt. Pleasant American Legion Honor guard took part in the placing of the colors.

“Today we gather to remember, to honor and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country,” teacher and event coordinator Brian Grindle said. “Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the notion today and every day. It's not a lot, but its one small way we can honor those who have the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom. Thank you to all of you.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.