Sollars Elementary students embrace vets
Stars and Stripes May 26, 2008
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Sollars Elementary School students are getting to know a pair of veterans in the community.
Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgts. Herman Tinnirella and David Barton are making the best of a rare opportunity to go to the head of the classroom.
Second-grade teacher Heather Appel last fall invited the two to visit with all grade levels at different times throughout the year. They’ve talked to the students about patriotism, volunteering, the Pledge of Allegiance and the significance of important federal holidays. They’ve also shared their stories about a long-ago conflict, the Vietnam War.
"Were you in a war? What was it like?" is a common query, Tinnirella said.
Appel had set up a similar program with veterans at The Sullivans School in Yokosuka for the past three years.
It helps the students "see a human side" and "understand what a veteran is," she said. They learn "Memorial Day is not just a day to have a great barbecue."
Tinnirella said it’s the first time military retirees in the community have been invited to speak on a regular basis at a base school. So far, he and Barton have interacted with several hundred students.
"It’s good to get the children involved in an early age, making them more interested in our government and understanding how it works and the sacrifices of our veterans and others as well," he said.
Most recently, Tinnirella and Barton helped with the sixth grade’s participation in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ladies Auxiliary Patriot’s Pen essay contest.
They helped judge the entries, and the Retirees Activities Office — at which both Tinnirella and Barton work — chipped in $150 in prize money, Tinnirella said.
This year’s theme is "Why America’s Veterans Should be Honored."
The top six Misawa essays were written by Pierce Kurek, Alex Davis, Teressa Eberhart, Alexandria Dupre, Kimberly Tadlock and Timothy Harrelson. Each won a savings bond, worth $50 to $300, donated by base organizations.
Kurek, Davis and Eberhart move on to the next round, with judging by the VFW Post in Thailand.
Ultimately, one winner will be selected from each U.S. state, and a overseas winners, one from Europe and one from the Pacific, Appel said.
One national winner will be chosen from the group and will receive a $10,000 U.S. savings bond and a trip to Washington with all expenses paid.
"I wanted to write this essay as a way of saying thanks," Eberhart said. "They fight for our freedoms."
Wrote Kurek: "Veterans all over the world risk their lives every day for what we hold dear … that is why we should honor them."