Return to Headlines

Veterans Day in the District

To honor veterans for Veterans Day, Mount Nittany Elementary students literally sang their praises.


Packed into the all-purpose room, more than 400 students warbled “Thank You, Soldiers” to seated veterans, some in uniform, who had been invited to school Friday to share memories of their military service. The recognition also extended to MNE staff members Sherri Washington and Ken Michael, both veterans.


“Thank you, oh thank you, men and women brave and strong, to those who served so gallantly we sing this grateful song,” the refrain went.


Their performance capped a morning-long commemoration during which students rotated among three stations. At two of them, veterans from students’ families either talked about their respective branches and experiences or discussed proper American flag etiquette. The third station focused on writing thank-you letters to guest veterans.


“Everything we did this morning was the result of hard work of a team of teachers and staff members who did all of the planning, and all of the communications, and all of the preparation, to make today happen,” MNE Principal Mark Feldman said at the assembly, asking for a round of applause. “Finally this morning, to our veterans: We thank you for your service to our country. We thank you for the sacrifices you made, and most especially, on behalf of this entire school, we thank you for taking time out of your day today to make a difference in the lives of 430 kids.”


Fourth-grade teacher Holly Klock, the planning committee leader, said different factors, including the COVID pandemic, had kept MNE from staging an all-school Veterans Day salute in the recent past. But this year, the time seemed right.


“It just felt like we hadn’t provided opportunities for this aspect of our community to come together and to feel included,” she said.


Around the school district, other schools marked the occasion in various ways.


Ferguson Township Elementary held a parade through the halls for students’ family members who served, complete with flags and cheers. An assembly featured a special guest: FTE alum Adam Hartswick, an Afghanistan veteran and former Army combat medic.


At State High, military science class students delivered cupcakes to veterans in the building. Veterans were also recognized over the morning announcements.


At Corl Street Elementary, an all-school assembly commemorated Veterans Day, while at Park Forest Elementary, Lori Valent’s kindergarten class drew pictures to send to her two sons in the military and Janette Ortiz’s kindergarteners assembled care packages for veterans. Gray’s Woods Elementary students wrote letters to family members and friends who are veterans, thanking them for their service.


Park Forest Middle School teachers Jeff Tranell and Rich Schmidt invited a veteran to show military service artifacts and read the non-fiction book “H is for Honor” to their students. Additionally, sixth graders made cards for veterans at the Hollidaysburg Veterans’ Home, and the Friday morning school news broadcast recognized faculty and staff veterans.


Looking back on MNE’s Veterans Day morning, Klock said she especially liked seeing students feeling proud of their family members’ service.


“I heard someone walking in say, ‘That’s your grandfather? My grandfather served too,’ ” Klock said. “I don’t know if students are necessarily given the chance to share that pride with another when it comes to the military, and so this was just the perfect set-up to facilitate that experience, where students could share their pride in their family members and that connection to our school.”


By Chris Rosenblum

Photos and video by Nabil K. Mark