In Honor of Their Work: EHS Hosts Fifth Annual Veteran’s Day Breakfast

Isabella Lilley, Staff Writer

The aroma of sizzling sausage and fresh baked donuts drifts past noses. The light murmur of friendly conversation is slightly audible above the calming tunes from string instruments echoing through the cafeteria. Students in their dresses and slacks, administrators in their suits, and men and women in uniform shake hands tightly, exchange grateful smiles and share tears of appreciation.

Last Tuesday, Nov. 5, EHS hosted a Veteran’s Breakfast to honor veterans in the local area. Attendants included members of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) of Edwardsville and Glen Carbon and also veterans from the American Legion of Edwardsville and Glen Carbon.

The event was organized by secretary Mrs. Linda Fiore, and retired media specialist Sheryl Burian for the fifth year running.

Burian, with multiple family members in service, came back this year to help with the event because her care for those in the armed forces will never fade. “[It’s] very important to me. [The soldiers] can never be forgotten. I’m proud of everyone who serves and who has served.”

Principal Dennis Cramsey recognized administrators, students, teachers and staff who helped with veterans’ efforts since the beginning of this year. Mr. Matt Maddox, a fifth grade Columbus teacher and war veteran, was given special recognition for his ideas and efforts to put together a carnival in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

From donations throughout the year, and profits from the carnival hosted Nov. 2, a check for over $11,000 was presented to the IAVA. However, through a four-to-one corporate matching program presented by the IAVA. association, the grand total exceeded $56,000.

Among other guests, Congressman Rodney Davis and the principal and one student representative from each District 7 school attended. Mr. Scott Fitzgerald presented each student representative with an American flag for his or her school.

“We’d like to see the flags flown in front of all District 7 schools until they’re faded gray,”Fitzgerald said with breaks in his speech and hands gripped tightly around the podium.

William Leither, a 91-year-old World War II veteran, was drafted into the war in 1944. Sitting at a round table surrounded by fellow VFW members, he recounts his time spent in France, Germany and Austria.

With wrinkled hands folded tightly around one another, pursed lips, and clear, knowing eyes, he explained, “When I was drafted, I was a replacement for all the people who were killed. I was drafted into the infantry. On my first day in combat, I watched one of my fellow soldiers get shot and killed. There was a German soldier across the line. I…I shot him. And he fell. So I guess I killed him.”

Wiping a single tear from a glossy blue eye, he continued,“You’re afraid all the time. But the freedom. It’s a shame that they have to go to [war]. [They] can’t just get together and talk things over. People have to be killed. [But events like this] are nice. You see a lot of veterans, there’s quite a big breakfast, and I’m always hungry.”

In addition to the EHS Symphonic Orchestra, the Chamber Singers saluted the veterans through song with the “Armed Forces Salute.” With each change in tune, men and women rose proudly for the portion of the song representing their branch of service. Worn down hands lifted hats off heads and placed them over the left side of their chests, as some lips quivered and some smiled.

The student organizations National Honors Society (NHS), EHS Student Council, Interact Club, and the Library Advisory Board all made contributions to the veterans events. Senior Samantha Greytak, NHS president, could not be happier about the outcome.

“I love it. I love veterans. They’re very close to my heart. I was inspired to actually join the military because of veterans,” Greytak said.

Finishing off with acknowledgements to the District 7 Board of Education, Superintendent Ed Hightower, Assistant Principal Paul Stuart, Mr. Matt Maddox, Mr. John Martin, the administration, and the school organizations and the sponsors involved in the effort, Mr. Cramsey gave his last thank you to those who fight for our nation.

“We can never fully repay the debt of our gratitude to the more than one million American service members who died in service to our country. Today we celebrate America’s veterans for keeping this nation the land of the free and home of the brave.”