Appreciated and remembered

Veterans across the diocese honored

Flags waved, songs were sung and veterans of various branches of the military were honored at ceremonies throughout the Diocese of Syracuse for their dedication, commitment and service to our country.

   On Wed., Nov. 5, Derrick Charsky, 5, a kindergartener at St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in North Syracuse grinned broadly at the veterans invited for the school’s annual Veteran’s Day program before launching into a boisterous rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Derrick was thrilled to sing for the veterans and the invited guests, but more importantly, he understood why veterans should be celebrated. “They [veterans] help people and are very brave. They fight for us even when they don’t know us so we can be free,” stated Derrick.

   Jim Czyz who, served in the Army from 1967-1970, enjoyed attending the program and meeting the students. “I come here every year,” stated Czyz. “I think programs like this give kids a better understanding of history. They help keep our legacy alive.”

   Edward Donovan, an Airman First Class who served in the Air Force for almost three years and is a former St. Rose of Lima student, attended this year’s ceremony for the first time. “I received an email requesting volunteers to attend this event and I thought it was a great way to give back to the school. It’s really great to see the kids so excited to honor our military.”

   The school has hosted a veterans appreciation program for the past 14 years. During the event, veterans are given the opportunity to stand and be recognized for their military service, listen to the students sing patriotic songs and receive hand-made thank-you cards.

   “I loved being here, it was very heart warming,” stated Air Force Staff Sergeant Isaac Loren. “It’s great to see an event like this in the community.”

   Kindergartener Tatum Backnow, 5, shyly handed a card and candy to veteran Lt. Col. Rick Ackerman. Ackerman, who has been in the Army for 32 years, began coming to the event four years ago and has a daughter in the fourth grade at St. Rose. “It’s great that kids can participate in this program. Kids today watch so much TV they don’t always realize that soldiers are real people and someone’s mom, dad or grandparent. Events like these create a connection and that’s pretty special.”

   Sister Catherine Laboure, OSF, principal of the school feels the program also helps the students understand the role the military has played in the history of the country. “It’s been a good history lesson for the boys and girls to speak to the veterans who gave so much for our country,” she said.

   On Sun., Nov. 9, veterans were honored at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Liverpool with a Mass followed by a special Military Appreciation Ceremony sponsored by the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joseph the Worker Military Ministry coordinated by Anne Marie Lara.

   At the event veterans were honored and acknowledged by the ministry and by Peter Allen, an army veteran and president and founder of Thank A Service Member organization. Allen created the Central New York non-profit, grass roots organization to “honor the service and support the needs of the men and women of the military.” Allen travels throughout the world to acknowledge and thank service men and women with special coins of appreciation.

   “In the military, coins like these are given out to thank members of the service for a variety of reasons such as successful completion of a mission or lending a hand to a fellow officer. We present a coin that is relevant to all branches of the military as a lasting token of our appreciation and gratitude to the men and women who served in our military.”

   During the event veterans were given the opportunity to be acknowledged for their years of service and dedication. “I come from a military family,” stated Lara. “Both my son and my husband serve in the military. Two years ago Bishop Cunningham asked parishes to do something to honor the veterans coming home from the current war and that really touched my heart. I wanted to extend that recognition to include all veterans. That’s how this event began and I hope this year is the start of what will be an annual event of appreciation for the veterans.”

   On Nov. 10, the students and teachers of St. James Catholic School in Johnson City honored veterans within their own school family at a special appreciation ceremony. As veterans filed in past the students assembled in the auditorium escorted by two students holding American flags, a pre-schooler shouted out, “Hey, there’s my Dad. Hi, Dad!”

   Veterans stood and were acknowledged for their years of service and were presented a small flag by a friend or family member. A moving moment during the program was the playing of “Taps” by Seton Catholic Central Jr./Sr. High School students Granville Moore and Tate Ackerman in honor of veterans who had died.

   Following the event, students stood proudly with their family members who had served in the military and participated in the appreciation event.
   Owen Kennedy, 5, sat with his grandmother, Army veteran Jeannie Parshall and his father, Army veteran, James Kennedy following the ceremony. Although Owen seemed a bit confused by all the noise and people, he had no trouble explaining succinctly what it means to be a veteran.

   “They saved our country,” he said simply and then smiled up at his dad and grandmother.

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