Hampton school ceremony recognizes vets
About 250 Hampton fifth-graders recently honored U.S. military veterans with an hour of live, patriotic music and essays, read aloud, about heroism.
Each year, Hampton School District invites people to nominate Hampton Heroes, former military personnel with local ties.
The district then inducts the nominees — and gives each a commemorative plaque — at an assembly scheduled around Veterans Day.
This year, the Hampton Heroes include two father-and-son pairs, one deceased couple, and one survivor of Japan's surprise bombing of the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, which ushered the United States into World War II.
Since 2000, more than 200 men and women, including many Hampton High School graduates, have been named Hampton Heroes.
“It truly is a collaborative effort,” said Laurie Tocci, principal of Wyland Elementary School and coordinator of the 17th annual Hampton Heroes assembly on Nov. 14 at Hampton Middle School.
More than 42 veterans attended the event, said Rebecca Cunningham, assistant superintendent of Hampton School District.
Irving Berlin's “God Bless America,” performed by the Hampton Elementary Strings, opened the one-hour program.
Choruses from Central, Poff and Wyland elementary schools respectively sang “On Veterans Day” by Karl Hotzemann, “You Are a Hero” by Sam and Gary Francis, and “The Brave” by John Reggio. The Fifth Grade Band performed “American Fantasy” by Mike Story.
“I would have liked to have heard the kids play some more. They were good,” said Edith Solomon, 88, of Hampton, widow of Anthony Solomon, one of the new Hampton Heroes.
In addition to Solomon, the other new Hampton Heroes are: Army veteran Robert Fagan, 65, of Hampton; Navy veteran James L. Fetterhoff, 84, of Middlesex, Butler County; the late Navy veteran Catherine C. Smith, and her late husband, U.S. Army Air Corps veteran John H. Smith; Army veteran Joseph E. Hrason, 73, of Hampton; Air Force veteran Todd Salvia, 39, of Hampton; and his dad, Marine veteran Nicholas Salvia, 70, of Cranberry; plus, Army veterans George Anthony Graf Jr. of Palmyra, Virginia, and his late father, George A. Graf Sr.
Retired Marine Col. Ian Ferguson of Aspinwall, guest speaker, urged young people in the audience to consider military service as a career option.
Ferguson also encouraged them to do more than thank U.S. military veterans for their public service.
“When you find a veteran, kids, maybe talk to them, and ask, ‘What was your service like?'” Ferguson told the young people. “Honor your veterans. When you see them, ask them questions.”
“Taps,” performed by fifth grade trumpet players Carissa Williams and Jason Andrews, both of Central Elementary School, and Joshua Worobij of Wyland Elementary School, closed the assembly.
“I thought it was great,” Edith Solomon said about the program.
During the assembly, Solomon represented her late husband and accepted his Hampton Hero commemorative plaque.
Anthony Solomon, who died in 1994, served in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1944. On Dec. 7, 1941, he witnessed the Japanese bombers' surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. He recalled seeing the enemy pilots seated in their diving aircraft.
“He said he'll never forget the Japanese faces with smiles on their faces as they came down,” said Rosemarie Wetzel, 61, of Shaler, one of Anthony and Edith Solomons' four children.
The Solomons daughter, Antoinette Quinn, 66, of Hampton; their son Joseph Solomon, 63, of South Fayette; and their 14-year-old grandson, Nathan Solomon, also attended the Hampton Heroes assembly.
Deborah Deasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.