Madison's public school students didn't have a vacation day on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11. Instead, they welcomed many of Madison's veterans into their schools with special programs and tributes. One of the schools was Island Avenue School, at which students dressed in red, white, and blue; made and presented gifts for other veterans; and read poems and letters to soldiers and veterans.
Principal Doreen O'Leary explained to the assembled audience of parents and grandparents, "For the last several weeks we have all learned a lot about veterans. One of our projects was to ask students and teachers to give us the names of veterans in their families. We have a list of 90 names and many of those veterans are here with us today."
Those family veterans were introduced and asked to stand as their names were called in three groups of 30 each. Students were asked to hold their applause as each group was introduced. They did, and then the auditorium filled with applause and cheers and whistles, three separate times.
The assembly began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Student Council President Kevin Sandor. Principal O'Leary then introduced each of the veterans from the local posts of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars who had come in uniform to Island Avenue School to attend the assembly. They included Larry Brundrett, organizer of these school visits, U.S. Army, Vietnam; Stanley Chemacki, U.S. Army captain, Vietnam; Wally Stone, U.S. Navy, Vietnam era; Doc Swanson, U.S. Navy, United States Marines, Vietnam; George M. Smith, U.S. Navy, World War II; and George Noewatne, U.S. Army, Korea.
Also representing Madison's veterans were Paul K. Erdman, U.S. Army, Germany, Cold War; Donald L. Gesick, U.S. Air Force, Korea and Vietnam; Vern Beatrice, U.S. Navy, Korea; Tom Kelty, USAF, Strategic Air Command, 1969 to 1973; and Charles Corso, U.S. Army, 1964 to 1970. These veterans were joined by U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Testa, whose brother Cameron is in the 4th grade at Island Avenue School.
Each of the grades completed a special project to be presented to the guest veterans. Kindergarten students made placemats to be used at veterans hospitals and they were presented by Ellen Bartholomew. First-grade students made small flags, also for veterans at hospitals, and these were presented by Chris Glaser. Second-graders Bryce Malary and Thomas Johnson presented cards for veterans.
Third-grade students composed poems to veterans and soldiers. Third-grader Sadie Johnson read her poem, which she dedicated to her father, Lt. Col. Terry Johnson, who was in the audience. The 4th-grade students wrote letters to veterans and students-"some you know and some you may not know," O'Leary explained-and Karleigh Kokoruda read hers, saying, "I appreciate the courage and greatness you give to our country."