Milan Middle School honor local veterans with special program

Seventh-grader Hannah Collom is photographed with her grandfather, retired Navy veteran Richard Collom. He attended the Milan Middle School Veteran’s Day program traveling from Brooklyn to join his granddaughter.

Photographed Nov. 12 at the Milan Middle School Veteran’s Day program are Art Witbart, Tom Publiski, Joanne Symons, Paul Durkee and seventh-grade student Amanda Buie. The group enjoyed refreshments and conversation in the school cafeteria before attending the assembly.

Ninety-four-year-old World War II Army veteran, Jack McClary, attended the Milan Middle School Veteran’s Day ceremony on Nov. 12. McClary was given a special introduction.

Patriotic music, applause, standing ovations and song were the order of day, when Milan area veterans gathered at the Milan Middle School on Nov. 12 to be honored with a reception and program. The veterans were served coffee and donuts in the school cafeteria and given token gifts. Veterans took home flag-bearing coffee mugs the students filled with candies.

Principal David Schmittou greeted the veterans after they were escorted to the gymnasium and met with a standing ovation and applause.  The colors were presented by eighth-grade citizenship students, Trevor Brant and Kyle Snyder who led the pledge to allegiance.

Special music was chosen for the event. Band members Henry Thiry and Stephen Satarino, on trumpet, and flutists Kimberly Schmidt and Claire Fuller, accompanied by vocal music teacher Shayla Powell on piano, played the national anthem.  The sixth through eighth-grade choirs opened the program singing  “America the Beautiful”.

Schmittou kept his introductory remarks short.  He told the attendees Veteran’s Day was his favorite day of the year.  He said the students were there to honor. “This day is for you,” he told the veterans.

Vance McCrumb was the keynote speaker.  McCrumb is an active member of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 310 in Washtenaw County.  He greeted the guests and  introduced veterans from all branches of the armed forces.  A special introduction was given for veterans serving in Iraq, World War II, which included 94-year-old Jack McClary, and Korean veterans.

Martha Cothor, Vietnam veteran combat nurse and the first female president of local Chapter 310 of Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans of America, told the students how she cared for veterans who were injured. Cother began serving in 1966 as an Army nurse in Vietnam.  “My greatest honor was to care for my comrades,” Cothor said.

Dale Thornberry  was an Army gunship helicopter pilot in Vietnam.   He is now a radio producer and host for Veterans Radio, 990 AM airing at 9 a.m.  He received a card made by seventh-grade  citizenship student, Megan Domas .  He thanked her for the card and said he would keep it in a special box.  Each year, the middle school students make  handmade cards to send to those serving in the field and veterans hospitalized at the Veterans Administration Health System in Ann Arbor.

At the close of the program, students Chelsea Dyer and Colby Throne read the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Field” before the combined seventh and eighth-grade choirs sang the poem set to music by Alexander Tilley.

After the special musical closing, Schmittou thanked social studies teacher, Sharleen Stearns, for spearheading the event, and  introduced retired science teacher James Braunlich, who launched the program several years ago.  Braunlich said he never served in the military, but his father and brother were veterans. “The most important people in my life were veterans,” Braunlich said.

Stearns thanked the staff and students for their hard work and gave a special thanks to Milan Bakery for donating the pastries served at the morning reception.

The pastries and coffee were enjoyed, while students and veterans visited together before the program began. Many students extended invitations to friends and relatives. Seventh-grader Hannah Collom brought her grandfather Richard Collum who served two tours of duty in Vietnam as an advanced missiles stems operator.  He traveled from Brooklyn to attend.

A group of Milan area veterans and guests joined seventh-grade  student, Amanda Buie, for the reception hour. Korean veteran Art Witbart and Joanne Symons attended at the invitation of their nephew, Victor Michaels, and Kyle Snyder.  Retired Army Military Police, Paul Durkee and Tom Publiski, retired Army serving in Vietnam, rounded out the group.

Christopher Dea, 82  nd Airborne and cousin of student Trevor Brant, exchanged experiences with Vetris Lowery. Both veterans recently returned home from a tour in Afghanistan.  Lowery said it was good to be home.

Schmittou closed the program reminding students that the veterans were heroes.  He told the students when they met a veteran to say thank you.  It was important that they know, “They are never forgotten,” Schmittou said.

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