With Veterans Day approaching this Sunday, schools all around the Olentangy Local School District are hosting celebrations to honor local veterans. On Monday, Liberty Middle School kicked off the week by listening to around 40 veterans tell their stories to students and teachers before honoring them with an assembly.
Veterans kicked off the morning by having coffee and socializing with their fellow servicemen and women. Once students arrived for the school day and settled into their classes, veterans were assigned to classrooms for 30-minute presentations about their particular branch, their service time, and what their military experience has meant in their lives.
Following the first 30-minute period, veterans went to a second classroom so that students were able to hear multiple veterans’ stories.
Following the festivities, the event concluded with a brunch for all veterans and their families in attendance.
One veteran in attendance was Powell Mayor Jon Bennehoof, who served on the USS Ranger in the United States Navy from 1969-73.
“It was an honor to be asked to attend,” Bennehoof said. “It’s nice to be able to talk to the kids about our experiences.”
Bennehoof, who co-founded the Delaware County Veterans Court and serves as a veteran mentor, said he chatted with the students about various events during his service such as boot camp, trade school, and where he served. He said it was “enjoyable to have the classes interested in what I had to say” and added he received some very good questions from students.
Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient Greg Hughes talked about the impact 9/11 had on him deciding to enlist and shared stories about his time in the Middle East as a convoy machine gunner. Among those stories was the suicide truck bomb that detonated five feet away from his Humvee, resulting in two busted eardrums and shrapnel in his face.
“The reason I’m telling you this is to show the sacrifices people in the military make to protect this nation,” Hughes said to the class. “They’re willing to put their lives on the line for the common cause of good.”
Some students were treated with the pleasure of hearing from John Preklas, who served as an aerial gunner in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. Preklas was given a resounding round of applause by all in attendance as his honors were read off during the assembly.
Liberty Middle School is just one of several schools in the district with events to honor veterans. Olentangy Orange Middle School held a breakfast and fundraiser last Friday. Tyler Run Elementary will hold a breakfast and assembly on Friday, and Olentangy Berlin High School will hold its inaugural veterans parade that day as well.
Indian Springs Elementary will hold its second annual “Honoring Our Veterans” celebration next Tuesday, Nov. 13.
The amount of effort and work done by the school district to honor veterans and help military families is not lost on Bennehoof.
“Being a product of the turbulent 1960s and the Vietnam War era, it’s extremely humbling to see that kind of commitment from teachers, veterans or not, serving the community and taking the time to make that commitment in recognition of veterans’ service,” he said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.