Veterans Day is this Saturday and students in the Elsmere and Board Horizons Program with the Greater Southern Tier BOCES held an event this morning. More than two-hundred students greeted veterans and active military personnel by singing patriotic songs prior to the start of a military parade. After the parade the students and staff held a luncheon where they had the opportunity to listen to stories and experiences from the veterans.
Elmira native Jordan Sweet says this event has a deeper meaning for him, “This event means a lot because I’m trying to go into the Navy myself, me and my friend Matt we want to become a Navy Seal and hopefully, I learned a lot today so hopefully I can go into the Navy with a lot of experience, knowing that everyone here has served our country and did us right.” An event that was put on by the students to honor the veterans who served our county turned into a learning experience for many.
A poem “The Soldiers Night Before Christmas” that was written by a marine stationed in Okinawa Japan in 1993 by Major Bruce W. Lovely was read this morning to begin the luncheon.
Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give
And to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges, awards of all kind
A sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different, so dark and dreary,
I knew I had found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.
I heard stories about them, I had to see more
So I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping silent alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one bedroom home.
His face so gentle, his room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean shaven, his weathered face tan,
I soon understood this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night
Owed their lives to these men who were willing to fight.
Soon ‘round the world, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
Because of soldiers like this one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice;
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,
my life is my God, my country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over and drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still,
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
And I covered this Soldier from his toes to his head.
And I put on his T-shirt of gray and black,
With an eagle and an Army patch embroidered on back.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
And for a shining moment, I was United States Army deep inside.
I didn’t want to leave him on that cold dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, whispered with a voice so clean and pure,
“Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all is secure.”
One look at my watch, and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night!
Many like Marine Corps veteran Peter Karpovich were brought to tears during the reading. “You know a lot of us have lived that after we’ve come back, we’ve been on the floor, we’ve wrapped ourselves in a blanket which in the marine corps we call is a woobie, and months go by and that’s how you survive.”
It’s events like this that many veterans attend because it involves students and according to Marine Corps veteran John Neal it brightens their days. “We get an awful lot of feedback from the kids, it lifts you up, to simply see the kids extending their hand to shake your hand, there’s a real relationship that happens there.”
Happy Veterans Day to all who have served and all who are still serving today.