School communities honor local veterans

Students urged to honor veterans and know that “you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Posted on 11/11/2021
Sixth Grade Center students in the Pennridge North Middle School auditorium hold up their American flags before the Veterans Day program.By Gary Weckselblatt

After a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennridge North Middle School hosted the 33rd annual Veterans Day program that rotates between the Quakertown Community, Palisades and Pennridge school districts.

As master of ceremonies state Rep. Craig Staats said, “After last year’s cancelation, looking at the crowd, this is a great comeback.”

Indeed, Thursday’s patriotic event honored veterans for their service and included several speakers, wonderful music and songs from the Pennridge band, chorus and several adult musicians along with several ovations throughout the 90-minute program that recognized veterans in the Upper Bucks County community.

“I am so thankful to Superintendent Dr. David Bolton and the Pennridge School District for hosting an amazing Veterans Day program,” said Quakertown Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner, who spent 20 on active duty in the Army, plus four years as a cadet in the U.S. Military Academy.

He said that in sixth grade students should begin to focus on joining various types of service organizations to help them learn the habits of giving back. These experiences will help them in building their resumes for high school and college.

“As a middle school student, the message I would take away from today is about love of country,” Dr Harner said. “I have lived all over the world, and I tell you there’s no place like home.”

Dr. Bolton said prior to the program, students in the three districts have been receiving lessons about Veterans Day and the reasons to honor those who served. Included in their lessons was time devoted to writing letters of thanks to local veterans. “I’m thankful we’re able to gather this morning to honor and celebrate our veterans,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to recognize you today.”

Retired Navy Admiral Linda Wackerman, a Quakertown resident and pilot during a 32-year career, suggested to students that the military could have a role for each of them.

“We need you, you can do anything you put your mind to,” the keynote speaker said. “The military is not just about fighting wars. We have all types of careers and we need you. You invigorate us. We’re going to hand this baton off to you. When you travel the world, it makes you appreciate where we are. We are so blessed.”

She said her daughter has followed in her footsteps as a Navy pilot now serving in the South China Sea. “You are the future, our bright future,” she said. “Please find a way to give back.”

Citing America’s current divisions, the retired admiral said “We’ve gone through the pandemic, and the country is at odds politically. That’s not what we were as a nation for hundreds of years. We need to get back to being selfless, like our veterans. They did what they did so you can sleep safely at night. We wouldn’t be standing here without them.”

Chaplain David Ellis said something about each war or conflict since World War II and had veterans of each stand to be recognized to applause and flag waving.

Both Commander Craig Wilhelm, a 1961 Pennridge graduate, who was drafted into the Army in 1964, and Gunnery Sgt. John Sandle, who enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17, used well-known quotes as part of their messages.

Commander Wilhelm used these words from Secretary of State Colin Powell: "All children need a laptop. Not a computer, but a human laptop. Moms, Dads, Grannies and Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles - someone to hold them, read to them, teach them. Loved ones who will embrace them and pass on the experience, rituals and knowledge of a hundred previous generations. Loved ones who will pass to the next generation their expectations of them, their hopes, and their dreams."

Gunnery Sgt. Sandle quoted President Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

In his 25-year military career, Mr. Sandle said he accepted that challenge. “I did, I can and I have,” he said.

The 90-minute program was sponsored by the seven veterans organizations in Upper Bucks County: Hartzell-Crouthamel Post No. 280, John Rivers Memorial Post VFW Post 11322, Nase-Kraft Post No. 255, Palisades District Memorial Post No. 399, VFW Post 245, Forrest Lodge, Vietnam Veterans of America, VVA Chapter 468, and Wallace Willard Keller Post No. 242.

Said Admiral Wackerman, “This is the home of the free because of the brave, and those folks did what they did for you.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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