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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Viola Veterans honored by sixth graders

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On May 9, Cameron Swiercz presented an award to his great-grandfather, Freeman Todd of Henderson, a veteran of World War II. Viola Elementary School's Third Annual Veterans Appreciation Day was put together by Viola sixth graders, who planned the school assembly to honor seven area veterans for their military service and sacrifices. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
Doyle Hively remembers feeling hostility from some, instead of receiving "thank you's," when he returned home from a long tour of duty in Viet Nam in 1972 .

It may have taken 40 years but on May 9, his great-niece, Josey Walker, spoke of Hively's years of military service at a Viola Elementary School assembly.

Walker and six other area veterans received recognition and awards at the school's Third Annual Veterans Appreciation Day.

"This was very touching," Bob Rogers of Viola -- another Viet Nam vet -- said as he held a shadowbox he was given to display his military citations. "My grandson (Chase Rogers) has been asking me about when I was in the military, and borrowed some of my pictures and records. I thought it was for a school project -- I didn't expect this."

A framed photo of Rogers in his Navy uniform was part of a collection of photos and military memorabilia, including Delmer Sanders' Viet Nam era Army jacket, on display for students to see during the ceremony.

"I heard about this company, Products for Good, which gives its profits to programs which support military families," Viola Elementary Teacher Carla Duncan said. "I thought my class could buy some and present them to local veterans."

Over the course of this school year, her sixth grade class donated $362 for the veterans' awards, chose relatives to honor and planned for the appreciation day assembly.

Three Viet Nam Veterans, two Korean War Veterans and a veteran of World War II were present, as a sixth grade relative read a short statement about their military careers.

Jewell Batterton came up to be recognized after his grandson Tate Batterton spoke of his three years of service in Korea.

"This is an honor for me, thank you," Freeman Todd of Henderson said, after his great-grandson, Cameron Swiercz, presented him with a shadow box to recognize his three years of action during World War II.

The ceremony made Henderson think back to the years from 1943 to 1946, the time he served his country.

"I remember doing a lot of traveling," Todd said. "We were all over Europe and Germany. We took a 43 day boat trip, through the Suez Canal, to reach the Pacific. I was in the Philippines on V-J Day."

M.L. White, a Korean War veteran, was the long-time commander of the Viola VFW Post, and taught students flag education for many years. But even he was surprised that the Viola sixth graders had decided to remember veterans.

"It seems like, today, kids aren't taught much about wars and what went on," White said. "It's nice to know the students here are learning that freedom don't come free -- there are sacrifices involved."

Hunter Williams was disappointed that health issues prevented his great-grandfather, who lives in Texas, from personally receiving his award. Ramon Horinek, who spent his entire working career in the Air Force, was shot down in Viet Nam in 1967, and spent five years as a prisoner of war.

Hunter's step-mother, Amber Williams, Horinek's daughter, accepted the award in his behalf.

Hunter ended the ceremony by reading a quote from Horinek, taken from an article about POWs, "I have lived by one motto, and that is -- I am an American fighting man, I will go where I must go, fight where I must fight, die if I must die, but I will never betray my God, my country, my President, my fellow countrymen, or my fellow fighting men. I say NEVER. Engrave these words on your hearts, because that's what our country expects out of each one of us."

As students filed from the gym back to class, Bob Rogers had a final comment on the ceremony.

"It's quite an honor to be recognized by your grandson, and the whole school," Rogers said. "If I could add anything, it would be a prayer for those who didn't come back, and (a prayer for) all their families."

When asked if Veterans Appreciation Day will continue, Williams replied, "We will absolutely do this again next year."

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