Shaler Middle School students serve those who served our country for Veterans Day

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

In recognition of Veterans Day, Shaler Area Middle School students spent one day serving those who served the country.

Students in the seventh and eighth grade honored more than 375 veterans in the school's 15th annual Celebration of Veterans last week, which featured a veterans breakfast served by the students and a presentation performed by the middle school students.

“I think for the community, it's a way for us to honor the veterans in the neighboring communities, and we draw in people from afar,” said Darla Gerlach, a Shaler Area Middle School teacher who helped organize this year's event. “It's a cohesive act to bring the community, the students and staff together to create an understanding of patriotism.”

Each year, a different war is highlighted with the veterans from that war given a special token of thanks. This year, students featured the Korean War, and veterans from “the forgotten war” at the breakfast and during the presentation in the school's auditorium.

Eighth-grader Ryan Stankovic learned stories about the Korean War from his grandfather, Ed Stankovic of Shaler, who served in the Navy. Those stories included the fear crew members felt of his ship felt when the vessel they were manning unknowingly hit a whale.

“They were ready for battle,” Ryan Stankovic said. “I think that's kind of crazy. It feels good that I know (these veterans) came back alive.”

Generations of veterans hugged the students as the students handed them special mementos of thanks and asked them about their service. The auditorium broke out in applause as students sang songs from the war years, everything from “Anchors Away” to the Elvis Presley hit “Hound Dog.”

The seventh- and eighth-grade cheerleading squads also performed, and students highlighted the history of the Korean War during the presentation.

World-languages teacher Gerra Gembarosky serenaded the veterans with songs from the Korean War era, such as “Cry Me a River,” and a band of Shaler Area teachers performed songs from yesteryear.

“It was really great all of these people gathered,” said student Josh Greiff, whose grandfather, Thomas Montgomery, attended the event. “It felt amazing to know they showed up to see our ways of thanking them.

“You think of the nation in a different way and see everything differently. You become grateful for what you have.”

Gerlach said the veterans celebration is just as educational for the students as it is an act of showing appreciation for the veterans.

“(The event) also develops an understanding of respect and honor for the veterans and people who served our country,” Gerlach said. “One student said he looks to them as mentors. He said he has more of an understanding of his roots and respect for people who are willing to enlist in the military as well. As a seventh-grader, that's very meaningful.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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