WALLENPAUPACK - This Veterans Day, over 100 fourth graders considered what United We Stand means. For the annual Wallenpaupack North Intermediate School Veterans Day program, the students presented their thoughts on the concept through art, songs and essays.

Nora Warner, the essay winner from the third-grade wrote that United We Stand means, “We as a nation are all here as one.”

From the fourth grade, Izabelle Bartleson believes “veterans keep us safe” as they serve in the different branches of the military and so, because of their commitment, “We take the time to appreciate the hard work of our veterans.” 

Simply, Ella Smith, the fifth-grade essay winner believes “United we stand, united we fall” as united means no one can stand by themselves since people must “work as a team” in order for “freedom and harmony” to succeed.   

This Veterans Day, Amanda Cykosky the principal of the intermediate school said those in attendance gathered to recognize the “selflessness” of those who “answered the call to protect this nation and its freedoms.” But also, by observing the day, it is a time to pay respect and “reflect on the sacrifice our veterans have made.”  

As part of the annual program, the many mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents who served assembled to post the colors. Posting of colors, Cykosky said is a chance for the veterans to “band together in their experience” while all others in attendance can “honor their efforts and sacrifice.” Together, the servicemen joined together outside of the gymnasium and were led back into the room, where they stood at attention while the colors were posted. Veterans, Cykosky said have been “brave” as they left their loved ones behind to go on and “protect our country.” If not for the veterans, all other Americans’ “way of life would be very different.”   

A Wallenpaupack graduate, Bill Long who served in the Marine Corps and Army National Guard told the families that the American flag is much more “than a piece of cloth” to veterans as it is continuously present in their time of service, as they “swear to protect the Constitution of the United States” with their lives. During their service, the flag is on the battlefield and a part of servicemen’s’ uniforms, which shows all others around the world who they represent. Even when they die, the flag has a place, as it will be draped over their coffin. And so, when people see the flag, Long asked all to remember what the flag means to the millions of men and women “in harm’s way” who are “protecting our freedom.”

While not from the Lake Region, Robert Lavin who served in the SM3 US Navy and USS Okinawa LPH-3 became a “brother to the Wallenpaupack school community” once he and his Army of Angels constructed a playground in the memory of a student explained Cykosky. Lavin who enlisted in the Navy in 1966 served on two assault ships and was part of a recovery mission for Gemini 10 space capsule. But from 1967 to 1969 he was a signalman and was deployed on operations in Vietnam. Following his service in the military, Lavin continued serving once he became a firefighter for 39 years.  

The morning of the program, Lavin met with students and from that, he told the families that he was “overwhelmed” by the “community spirit.” Teamwork, he said is a component of “united we stand” as the veterans were able to march together during the program. Lavin recalled going through boot camp during the winter of 1966 and questioning why he joined. But, from his time in the service, “I learned a lot about life” as he served on two ships with 500 sailors, each with their duties that had to be completed as they were “part of a team.” Despite being in the navy, in his time of service Lavin came to know Marines and that didn’t matter, as they worked together in order for the “successes that we had.”

Hunter’s playground, which was constructed by the Angels Army at the school, was one of many constructed by volunteers who share the love and compassion in their communities Lavin said. Soon, the Angles Army will travel to Rwanda to build a playground and it is from that service, that Lavin hopes to continue “promoting peace and love” so someday “only wars will be in history books.”  World peace, Lavin believes will start once people have inner peace.

When looking at the flags created by the students, Cykosky hoped their art would remind everyone that Americans will continue to be “connected by our nation’s strength, unity and our appreciation and unwavering love for our veterans.” It is because of those who serve, Americans are “unified in the pride” shared for veterans whose actions have allowed all other Americans to have choices and opportunities since they gave up theirs in order “to protect ours.”  

The sacrifice veterans have made, the third-grade essay winner, Warner said “is more than words can describe.” She recalled her great grandfather who served in World War II who was “shot in the leg,” but believed that such a loss was “wroth our country’s freedom.” To the veterans, Warner said thanks because “you mean a lot to me, to us.”