Southside honors veteransPublished 10:17am Thursday, November 12, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Inside the cafeteria at Southside School in Niles, posters lined the walls in bold red, white and blue.
A line of tables were draped in tablecloth of the same color, with place settings for more than 20. In their seats, countless stories, countless reflections and countless experiences of several area veterans taking part in the school’s special Veterans Day luncheon.
“The honor that we bestow on our vets today doesn’t stop today,” said Southside’s Martha Oleson, who coordinated the event.
Students decorated posters and prepared a play for the visiting veterans and ate with their honored guests.
Guests like Niles Township Board trustee Richard Noble, Randy Wells and Denny Kime and the school’s first visiting female veteran, Geri Snuff.
“I loved it,” Snuff said of her experience as a United States Navy mechanic in 1942 and 1943.
“I don’t know,” she said. “One day I woke up and got out of bed and there was so much going on at that time…” Snuff told her mother she wanted to join the Navy and she knew then she “wanted to be a mechanic.”
Snuff’s eyes sparkled as she told of being stationed in Hawaii, at Pearl Harbor just shortly after it had been bombed by the Japanese in what would be a “day which will live in infamy.”
Snuff said she wasn’t afraid to start serving her country even in a place that had seen such destruction.
“I was just thrilled to death,” she said, her eyes lighting up once again. “I enjoyed every minute of it.”
It was the first luncheon with students that Snuff had taken part in. As the food was served and students waited to join the group, the former Navy mechanic said, “It’s wonderful.”
Principal Adrienne Blanton said students had been preparing for Veterans Day since the middle of last month.
“Every student in this school participated in this program,” she said.
Even for a generation growing up in wartime, the significance of Veterans Day is one educators like Blanton and Oleson find extremely important to teach to students.
“I am hoping that at least a seed has been planted for some kind of thought about how we got our freedom,” Blanton said.
As they ate lunch, some of the visiting veterans chatted with each other, every so often laughing out loud. But their eyes are a gateway to the memories that they hold of their time serving their country, the victories and the struggles that some of them continue to live with long after their service had ended.
Kime served as a Lance Corporal E3, combat infantry, in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam in 1966 and as he recounted his time at war, one could see his experience had not been forgotten.
“They called us grunts, ground pounders…” he said. “I still question whether we should have been there or not … I wonder about the fellas that I served with.
“I think it’s real important,” Kime continued. “Especially for the young people to have contact with veterans who are willing to share their stories.”
Wells, a former Navy seaman who served in 1969 and 1970, said he enjoys talking to students and telling of his experiences.
These days, Kime added, the younger generations may only know of wars past and military experiences based on what they see on television.
Veterans tell a different story, he said, and “every story is different and every story is important.
“They need to know that some of the privileges they have is because of the efforts of these veterans,” he said.