Poland Central School students Alexis and Landon Bates have a father who served in the U.S. Navy submarine force and a grandfather who served in the U.S. Army infantry.
John P. Bates is the father of fourth-grader Alexis, 9, and first-grader Landon, 6. John A. Bates is their grandfather.
On Nov. 8, Alexis, Landon and the rest of the Poland elementary students had the opportunity to honor the Bates and many other local veterans who attended Poland Central School’s annual Veterans Day assembly.
“It’s good for people to realize the sacrifices that we made,” John P. Bates said. “And it’s nice for the kids to understand that.”
About 25 local veterans were in attendance for the event. Poland students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in the assembly to honor the veterans in recognition of Veterans Day. Prior to the assembly, breakfast was provided to veterans and their families.
When asked during the breakfast about her father serving in the military, Alexis reflected on John P. Bates often being deployed for the Navy.
“I missed dad,” Alexis said.
Alexis, however, smiled and was happy about the opportunity to honor her father and grandfather at the event.
“It’s great,” John A. Bates said.
John P. Bates agreed and said he also went to the event a year ago.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I was really impressed last year. I retired from the military last year, so it was my first opportunity to come.”
‘So much more’
The Veterans Day Assembly started off with a color guard presentation by the drum line and Cub Scouts. Everyone then said the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Poland Select Choir sang the national anthem. Next students in kindergarten through fifth grade stated one part of the Pledge of Allegiance at a time, and students Natalie Hobin, Logan Cookinham, Caimin Roark, Katherine Muller, Ella Schmid and Amanda Sweet broke down what each part of the pledge means to Poland students.
Poland Elementary Principal Christopher Clancy hosted the assembly and said he was honored to have the veterans as special guests.
“It’s always important to teach our students that Veterans Day is so much more than a day off from school,” Clancy said.
Other highlights of the assembly included:
• Elementary students sung “America” and “God Bless the USA.”
• All of the veterans stood up one at a time to state their names and share some of their background.
• Poland parent and Navy veteran Corey O’Neil read Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proclamation about Veterans Day. Clancy then reviewed how the proclamation noted that there are about 900,000 veterans living in the state.
Page 2 of 2 - • Clancy read an excerpt from the book “America’s White Table” and set up a white table like in the book as a tribute to veterans who are no longer with us.
• The school district presented hundreds of cans of food to local organization Feed Our Vets. The school’s Kids Against Pollution, Poverty and Prejudice club sponsored the collection of the canned food, and elementary students brought in the food to donate.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Robert Palmer, whose grand-niece Kendra Walker, 10, is in fifth grade at Poland, said the Veterans Day program is “great.”
“It gives younger children some exposure to the armed services, and they see how upbeat we are afterward,” Palmer said.
U.S. Air Force veteran Kristina LaBarge attended the event — first having breakfast there with family members including her two nephews: Poland first-grader Jared Young, 6, and pre-kindergarten student Jake Miller, 4.
“I love it,” LaBarge said of the Veterans Day program. “This is my fourth year coming down here.”
Jared said he is proud of his aunt and thinks the assembly is “good.”
LaBarge one-upped him by saying “it’s awesome.”
“It gives me great pride that they keep it going with the younger generation,” she said.
‘Examples for us’
During the assembly, Clancy said a lot of time is spent in school talking about what it means to have good character and be a good person. The traits discussed — such as citizenship, fairness, trustworthiness, caring and respect — can be seen in the veterans at the assembly, he said.
“These men and women are great examples for us,” he said.
Clancy also talked to students about paying tribute to veterans on Veterans Day by calling them to say “thank you,” making them their favorite breakfast or thanking them in their own way.
“Monday is a very special day because — like today — it is a day we set aside to honor our veterans,” he said. “Whatever you do, you should make sure you stop and think about all our veterans have done for us.”