Veterans honored by Viola students

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Local veterans were honored by Viola Elementary students at the ninth annual Veterans Appreciation Assembly.
Myra Roork

It is greatly important to recognize the hard work and bravery of our veterans. They often do not get the recognition they deserve, for all they have done for our country.

Carla Duncan, a Viola School teacher, aspires to provide recognition to those who served our country and wants to honor all those who served.

May 9 at 1 p.m. was the ninth annual Veterans Appreciation Ceremony held at the Viola High School gym. Six veterans were honored who served our country during World War I, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom.

Sixth graders donated enough to purchase six shadow boxes and a large portion of the profits go to charities honoring veterans. Such charities include TAPS, Helping Hero and the Aleethia Foundation, which help wounded warriors and their families in difficult times. The shadow boxes are assembled at a facility in North Carolina that provide employment for mentally and/or physically challenged Americans.

According to an informative compilation of papers provided by Duncan, the coins in the shadow boxes have quite an interesting story.

The coins were discovered in Basra, Iraq in 2003 while coalition forces were securing banks. The uncirculated Iraqi coins were decommissioned by Saddam Hussein at the end of the first Gulf War because they did not have his picture on them. The coalition forces wanted the coins to be part of something good, so they obtained permission to auction off the coins to rebuild an orphanage in Basra that had been destroyed during the reign of Hussein.

A couple of Americans then purchased the coins and began a business called Products for Good. The business gives everyone a unique opportunity to honor and express their gratitude to our men and women in uniform while raising money for military families and providing employment to the disabled.

Duncan spoke of how she began the Veteran’s Appreciation Assembly and shadow boxes.

“At that time, I was listening to this radio station that was out of Charlotte, N.C. It was called the John Boy & Billy Big Show. Every Thursday morning they had this guy, Lane Ostrow, he is the Co-Founder of the company called Products for Good and they were always doing things to honor local veterans. They had a coin that was $20 you could buy and proceeds went to military people. I thought ‘You know, it would be really cool if my kids could get one of these $20 coins and thank someone’. When I asked the students about it, they thought the coin was not big enough and they wanted something bigger, so we got the shadow boxes. We have been doing shadow boxes ever since. We always try to pull directly from the kid’s families and our own community,” said Duncan.

Ostrow also likes to recognize students who donate the most or those who work hard to gather donations. Students who were recognized this year were Kyler Willett, Bella Todd, Ryan Stone and Joanna Luckenbach. The students recognized received a coin.

Duncan spoke about why it is important to her to recognize veterans and thank them for all that they have done.

“I love getting a chance to thank these people for what they have done because it is really important. As a kid, I didn’t have any veterans that I was aware of in my family and I didn’t really appreciate veterans. I really want kids to become aware of the veterans and what they did for them and why they are so important. Also, when it comes to the Vietnam Veterans, many of them have never been thanked and I have been told by many Vietnam Veterans that when they were thanked here at school, they had never been thanked before. [It’s been] over 30 years since they served and they were never thanked. In fact, it was something they felt they had to hide because so many people didn’t support them at the time. It is a way to give back and let people know how much we appreciate them and make someone smile,” said Duncan.

Previously honored World War II Veteran, William “Bill” Strauss, placed the POW/MIA flag upon a chair to represent fallen soldiers.

The six veterans honored were:

William “Bill” Lowman enlisted into the United States Navy in 1976 during the height of the Cold War and served through Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. Lowman proudly served his country for 30 years in the armed services.

Donley K. “Don” Sanders enlisted into the Unites States Air Force in 1966 during the Vietnam War and served his country for four years.

Bobby Wayne Mills enlisted into the United States Air Force in 1972 and served his country for 42 months. When asked why, he said, “I joined to serve my country.”

Charles Wayne Newberry was drafted into the United States Army in 1969 during the Vietnam War. He served a total of 19 months.

Jim H. Jolliff, Sr. enlisted into the United States Navy in 1955 and served for seven years. Jolliff said, “I was proud to serve my country as a flight medic.”

De Gaines enlisted in the United States Army in 1940 and Gaines received a Purple Heart. Gaines was unable to attend, so his grandson, Heath Gaines, accepted his shadow box on his behalf.

It is important for everybody to show gratitude and respect for those who served and the Veterans Appreciation Ceremony does just that. Duncan teaches her students the importance of showing gratitude to our veterans.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: