This year’s Veterans Day program at Wawasee High School — held this morning in the main spectator gym — had a guest speaker as in previous years, but the focus was more on how students can help active military members and also veterans.
Several student groups or organizations are holding drives during the holiday season. Several tangible ways to support veterans and troops were shared and students were challenged to get involved.
The Warrior Leadership Committee is doing the Coats For Kids project where no longer used coats still in good condition can be dropped off at all three elementary schools in the Wawasee district, as well as both NewMarket locations in Syracuse and North Webster and the high school. The actual coat drive will take place Dec. 16.
WHS Key Club is sponsoring the Stuff the Bus food drive underway this week to benefit the food pantries in the three Wawasee communities. It was noted three times as many military veterans are on food stamps and using food pantries compared to the civilian population.
Students Katy Ashpole and Ashley Helfers of the Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy talked about the annual toy drive sponsored by Combined Community Services that is county-wide and encouraged students to get involved. Some spouses of active military members who have been deployed or serving elsewhere may not be able to buy toys for their children for Christmas it was noted.
Student Emma Donahoe encouraged involvement in the Wounded Warrior Project at woundedwarriorproject.org. Student Aaron Becker challenged the students to fill shoe boxes full of basic items to be sent to military members. More information can be found at anysoldier.com.
Student Andrew Busse said the troops sometimes have to deal with boredom and he found the Internet site funforourtroops.com. Video games and consoles will be collected at the high school office and shipped to soldiers to give them some form of entertainment.
Also part of the program was three letters read written by active duty military members. Reading the letters were Becky Snavely of the Indiana Army National Guard, student Lisa Reed and Chris Pezan, also of the Army National Guard in Indiana.
Essentially the letters conveyed the message the troops appreciate any and all support and mail they receive. Some are stationed at locations where they can send mail, but can’t receive any. Others go for weeks without hearing from anyone in the states.
Final speaker for the program was Jason Salter, a 2006 graduate of WHS who served four years of active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps. He was stationed in Hawaii and elsewhere and served two seven-month tours of combat duty in Iraq.
Salter spoke briefly and gave credit to his parents for encouraging him not to give up and “they told me not to be a quitter.” He recalled how encouraging it was for him and other soldiers to receive letters and packages.
After leaving the military in June 2010, Salter noted it was a challenge to readjust to life away from the military because everything had been structured while he served in the Marines. He is now a full-time college student at IPFW and lives in New Haven.
American Legion Post 223 in Syracuse played taps and performed a gun salute. And the Vocal Motion choir of WHS sang the national anthem and also the song “Thank You Soldiers.”