Pagels honors veterans with ceremony
Pagels honors veterans with ceremony
Posted on 11/17/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Nov. 10, 2014 — West Haven Public Schools are closed each year for Veterans Day, but the significance of the day remains a focal point in classes in early November.

Teachers across the district help students honor veterans or learn more about veterans in their families through special projects and classroom lessons.

Alma E. Pagels Elementary School holds an annual ceremony that includes student presentations about veterans in their lives, while on Monday, West Haven High School students were visited by a local vet who served in Vietnam after joining the military in 1967.

Robert Wright, a member of the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 18, West Haven, spoke with WHHS U.S. History classes Monday morning, describing the time he spent in the Army as a paratrooper after high school. The history department welcomed Wright to the morning’s classes in honor of Veterans Day and so students could hear first-hand what life was like as a soldier in the Vietnam War.

“The tough part about being out on the field was that the only ground that was yours was the ground you stood on. That was the way you had to understand the situation,” Wright told students. “The enemy was everywhere, but finding him was almost impossible. There was camouflage, they were underground…You had to force the enemy into combat if you could to destroy their bunkers and their communications.”

Wright described carrying a rucksack of supplies weighing 90-110 lbs. and explained how officers didn’t wear anything that would easily signify their rank, so as to not make them a target.

Wright also gave a bit of history of what led up to the war. WHHS U.S. History students will learn more about the Vietnam War in the spring.

Pagels held its ceremony Nov. 7 and encouraged students to invite veterans from their family to attend. Youngsters had previously written in class about Veterans Day or a veteran they know, and some were chosen to read their piece to the school community during the morning event.

Students who read about a family member told the audience what branch of the military and conflict he or she served in, and things they wanted others to know about the veteran, such as his or her hobbies, personality traits and even favorite foods.

“Some things I would like you to know about my veteran are he loved milkshakes, he was always kind to others, he was smart, and he had a great sense of humor,” said third-grader Lia Hey, who wrote about her grandfather.

Fourth-grader Kevin Gardner detailed the military experience of his grandfather, U.S. Army Lt. Robert Gardner, and noted that he received two bronze star medals, one for heroism and the other for valor, and a Purple Heart when he was wounded in combat. He served in the Vietnam War in 1967.

“I am very proud of my Poppy and honored that he served our country to protect the United States of America,” Kevin added.

First-grader Jasmine Smith, second-grader Evan Jones and third-graders Justen Whalen and Nick Hunckele also participated in that portion of the ceremony, while fourth-graders Jayda Johnson and Marc Muldong raised the flag. Second-graders Erik Jiang, Emily Guthrie, Lucas Yavangilio and Jacob Morris led the school community in the Pledge of Allegiance, and music teacher Zach Rosenburg led the students in singing two patriotic songs.

Principal Gary Palermo, Mayor Edward M. O’Brien and Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro also spoke, encouraging the entire school community to reflect on what veterans have done for the United States and the sacrifices they’ve made.

“We want to thank all veterans for their service, for keeping us safe, for protecting us, and for allowing us to do the things we do on a day-to-day basis, like go to school and go to work,” Cavallaro said. “Without their help and without their support, those things wouldn’t be possible.”

Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114;