Saying thank you

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary students honor veterans at school, home

Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The nation may have celebrated Veteran's Day on Tuesday, but students and staff at Kalifornsky Beach Elemen-tary School have been commemorating the sacrifices made by members of the armed services for weeks.

The school, home to three veterans, has long been a bastion of remembrances of veterans, and this year was no exception.

The school's Veterans Wall of Honor has been on display since Oct. 29, and students gathered last Thursday to honor veterans in the community in an all-school assembly.

The activities were organized by custodian Steve Wright, who is a veteran himself. The retired Army sergeant was drafted in 1969 and served in Vietnam with the 82nd Airborne Division.

These days, Wright takes it upon himself to help younger generations remember the country's servicemen and women.

In 1998, he started the school's annual Wall of Honor tradition, in which students and staff members are invited to bring in pictures and stories from family members who have served at least 120 days of active duty as far back as the Revolutionary War. Those currently serving are honored with a yellow ribbon, as well.


An example of student and staff contributions to the wall shows the veterans in speech teacher Connie Meyer's family, including her father, who worked as a medic on the front line in World War II in France, her brother, who used to guard Air Force I, and a family friend, Bryan Beringer, who currently is stationed in Iraq.

Photo by Jenni Dillon

Wright's own entry to the Wall of Honor includes several family members who have served in the military. Among them are his father, brothers and sister-in-law. Each has a story, he said.

"She served 30 years in the Air Force," Wright said, pointing to his sister-in-law. "She was a lung cancer victim on her deathbed three times, and survived that. A year later, she was stationed at the Pentagon during 9-11, and she survived that.

"There's story after story after story up here."

Also on the wall are 1st Lt. Connie Tobin, a fourth-grade teacher in the active reserves with the U.S. Air Force, and Retired Lt. Tracy Silta, who served in the Navy as a nurse and now nurses students at the school.

Then there are the family members of other school members.

Custodian Sandy Schroeder has 13 veterans in her family, teacher Matthew Faris has an uncle who remains missing in action in Vietnam, and teacher Linell McCrum's niece serves in the Air Force.


Retired Sgt. Steve Wright and Lt. Connie Tobin stand with students during the Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School Veterans Day assembly last week.

Photo courtesy of Connie Tobin

Principal Sylvia Reynolds brought in pictures of her husband, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam.

"The emphasis (of the wall) is family," Wright said. "The goal is to get families to participate in proudly displaying their veterans."

Tobin added, "It's nice for the kids to see just how many people have been involved and are currently involved."

It's also important for kids to honor that involvement, Wright said.

"Everybody's so busy, we forget veterans' service and sacrifice," he said.

That's why last Thursday, students had an opportunity to thank the community members who fought for them.

"The Veteran's Day assembly was a huge success," Wright said. "There were representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. It was impressive.

"At the end, all the students stood up and screamed from the bottom of their hearts a big 'thank you,'" he said. "It was a tear jerker."

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