Sugar Valley Rural Charter School honors area veterans
LOGANTON — Since 2011 the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School has upheld the tradition of observing Veterans Day and honoring those who have dedicated their lives to serving our country, and this year was no different.
Students from grades kindergarten through 12 gathered together on Monday morning in the school’s multi-purpose room and respectfully recognized local military veterans by singing songs, reciting poetry, and gifting each veteran with art and small gifts as tokens of their appreciation.
This year’s master of ceremony was SVRCS senior Devien Confer who has future plans to join the Marine Corps. Confer spoke about his uncle, a Marine who served in Iraq in 2003, and how he inspired Devien to be a better person through stories about his time in the Corps. “You sacrificed something of yourself — time, sometimes friends, sometimes family, just to do something better and greater than yourselves. Some of you even sacrificed your bodies and your health. And that makes every single one of you Veterans here, all a hero. And I respect every single one of you,” said Confer as he looked out into the audience that included 45 area veterans.
Confer was followed by E-4 Specialist Autumn Hill who served four years in the Army. Hill also talked about the sacrifices that a veteran makes. “One of the things that we all know we all signed up for is ‘that there was no guarantee.’ There was no guarantee you were coming home, no guarantee you were ever going to see the people that mattered the most to you ever again,” she continued. “You weren’t guaranteed to be home for Christmas or Thanksgiving, or the things that really count, the things that add up and matter, and you did it anyway. You made that sacrifice and that’s huge, and our Nation owes you for that.”
Hill, who trained in the Army as a combat medic, continued to be interested in the medical field, becoming an LPN in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Fort Hood. She is currently employed as an RN in the The Birthplace at UPMC Susquehanna, and recently received a Master’s Degree in Midwifery, and accredits all of her success to her experience in the military, saying that the Army prepared her for life.
In addition to the student presentations, a community group known as the “The Valley Quilters,” bestowed several full-size quilts to veterans living in the 17747 area. The group, which consists of five local volunteers, Brenda Mitchell, Eunice Jefferies, Barb Sweeney, Jane Leiter, and Melinda Eggler, began sewing the quilts this summer.
“We wanted to show our appreciation to our local veterans, and when we started this project, we found out that Hilda Wagner and Iolene Snook had done this a few years ago, making 14 quilts for area veterans. We wanted to continue their wonderful efforts,” said Mitchell. “We are giving out a total of 17 quilts today in the Valley. We have three World War II veterans, we have two from Korea, and a group of 12 from the time of the Cold War who will be getting quilts,” she continued. “We have one stipulation – if you receive a quilt today, you absolutely must use it. Please don’t take it home and put it in a closet. Wrap yourself in it this winter and know that you are loved and appreciated by the folks here in this Valley.”
Mitchell also presented each veteran with a memento created by Loganton resident Yvonne Weaver, from the stars of faded American flags that surrounded the veterans memorial in the center of Loganton. Each star came with a slip of paper that explained their value. “I am one of the 48 stars that was part of our American flag that once flew over Sugar Valley. I became too tattered and worn to fly. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.”
The Sugar Valley Rural Charter School has been recognizing veterans since 2011 when English teacher Jodie Walizer hosted a small ceremony in her classroom. “When we started this program, there were three veterans present, and today we had at least 45 veterans in our audience,” said Walizer, with a smile. “We are honored to be in the presence of these men and women and share this special day with them, and it makes me so emotional when I look out over the crowd and I see them rise one at a time.”
But as time marches on, and our veterans age, the faces in that crowd change – some are new, but sadly some do not return from the previous year’s ceremony, and this lays heavy on Mrs. Walizer’s heart. “Each Veterans Day we are thrilled that the audience seems to grow, however there are some of our honored veterans who are no longer with us, and that’s hard. This morning, we reserved a seat for them, right up front,” she said as she held back tears and pointed to an empty black rocking chair.”
Walizer says that her goal is to make the program better every year with new ways to honor the veterans and their families, and feels that this year was a success. “This years program was terrific from the singing, to the poems, to the quilts, it was the school and the community coming together in the most beautiful way to pay tribute to those who served us.”