Elk Grove Village, Ill. –
Elk Grove Village, Ill. - Students, military veterans and distinguished guests filled the cafeteria at Elk Grove High School on Friday, November 9th, to share in a breakfast buffet, provided by culinary art students, before the start of a Veterans Day ceremony titled The “Nation” Honoring Heroes, Past and Present.
High school senior Anna Olvera, a Mount Prospect resident, was taking part in her first Veterans Day ceremony as a member of Leadership through Service (LTS), a class that meets every day for one period.
“I think it’s really nice that we are here spending time with the veterans,” she said. “The only person I know, who is a veteran, is our security guard. I like talking with him about his experiences in the U.S. Navy.”
Senior Hazel Mangurali, of Des Plaines, who is also a member of LTS, appreciated the opportunity to hear the veteran’s story.
“Most people my age never have a chance to meet a veteran,” she said. “I like learning about (veterans) as people in addition to their military service.”
Among the distinguished guests was World War II veteran Al Mampre whose service as a medic in the European theater was dramatized in the HBO television series “Band of Brothers”.
“Today is a very good example that all we went through was not in vain,” explained the 96-year-old north shore resident. “I think it’s uplifting to see all these young people. They are so bright. I think we have an excellent future because of them.”
Following breakfast, veterans and their family members marched into the gym as the school band played and near 2,000 students, faculty, and guests applauded.
A video about Soldiers who earned the Purple Heart was presented to the students and staff. Immediately following, U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, Commanding General, 85th Support Command, gave remarks about what motivated her to join the Army and attend the United States Military Academy, and she spoke on the direction of the Army Reserve today.
“My dad planted the seed about going to the military academy,” she said. “I was accepted to prep school and decided that would become my future.”
The school concluded the all-school assembly portion of the ceremony with their school band playing each of the five service songs to honor veterans from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Additionally, members from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post recognized two students, who are scheduled to join the military service after graduation.
Following the all-school assembly, a social gathering was held where students interacted with veterans and took photos with them. The day’s events concluded in the school theater, during a panel discussion, where veterans who served in a variety of conflicts ranging from World War II, the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom conversed with students on their personal military stories.
“We are so excited to hear from Al Mampre and Brigadier General Kris Belanger,” explained Stephanie Kezios, a U.S. history teacher at Elk Grove High School, who has organized their Veterans Day events for the last five years.
“We host 100 kids for each (panel discussion) session” said Kezios. “I think it’s really important that the students see the human side of our war heroes.”
Associate Principal of Elk Grove High School, Megan Knight, shared a sentiment of what this day meant for her.
“I view our veterans as living history,” she said. “The freedoms we have come at a price. This is such a powerful reminder of the people who sacrifice so much for our country.”