By TERRI REUTER
Publications/public information coordinator,
Southern York County School District
Glen Rock, Pa – Fourth grade students at Shrewsbury Elementary School learned about Veterans Day this year through the eyes of five local veterans.
The veterans, who represented the Army, Navy and Marines, visited the students and provided vivid examples of military life and action during the times they served. For the past several years, veterans have visited Southern York County School District students and provided insight into their military lives and training.
“Celebrating veterans started 15 – 16 years ago at Southern Elementary,” Shrewsbury Math Specialist Crystal Mueller said, and added the idea was born through her friendship with a Korean War veteran.
“I am thrilled that this meaningful celebration is continuing at Shrewsbury Elementary,” she said. “Fourth grade teachers see the benefit of children learning from others and hearing their stories of dedication and sacrifice for our country.”
Capt. Rick Siegel
: Captain Rick Siegel serves in the Army Reserves as a military Policeman and is also the husband of fourth grade teacher Cathy Siegel. He returned from a tour in Iraq last year, where he served as a military police platoon leader.
A policeman for Susquehanna Regional Police Department, Siegel said he trained Iraqi police while he served there. He trained more than 500 Iraqi officers in 15 police stations, including weapons training. Siegel and his fellow soldiers worked through temperatures that reached 140 degrees and carried 70-90 pounds of gear on the battlefield.
The Iraqi people are very good people, he explained. They have a strong sense of community and do most everything together.
Siegel reminded students about the importance of Veteran’s Day. “Your freedom is because of a person in uniform,” he said.
He also encouraged them to complete their education. “Keep your noses clean, listen to your parents and live life in an honorable way,” Siegel said.
Another veteran and relative to a Shrewsbury teacher is Eric Mueller, Crystal Mueller’s husband. An Army veteran and third generation military, Mueller attended college on an Army scholarship, graduating as a commissioned Army officer. He first served as a field artillery officer and was deployed in Germany.
During his time in the military, Mueller traveled to nearly every state in the United States as well as many foreign countries.
“My experience in the Army was great,” he said. “I got to serve with a lot of great Americans.”
After serving the Army for more than eight years of active duty, Mueller resigned his commission and then continued with the reserves for several years before retiring, for a combined total of 22 years of service.
“I didn’t serve during a war,” he said. “My view would have been different if I was engaged in combat.”
During that time in Germany, Berlin was divided into East and West Berlin. “People risked their lives to escape East Germany in order to enjoy the freedoms that Americans have,” he said.
As a veteran, Mueller appreciates the life he leads in America. “In the service, you get to see how good you have it as Americans,” he said, “Things are really different in other countries. I would not have known that if I hadn’t gone into the Army.”
Navy: Veteran Brian Adamski, a former District technology employee, graduated from Susquehannock High School in 1990 and joined the Navy in 1992. Having served in the Navy between the two Gulf wars, Adamski worked on covert operations to help prevent drugs from entering the U.S. He described the living conditions while hiding in jungles and rain forests.
“I was in secret so I had to hide in a hole and sometimes I had to sleep in that hole,” he said. “I spent three or four days without taking a shower.”
During his time chasing drug runners, Adamski learned to appreciate his native soil. “I couldn’t wait to get home,” he said. “I learned that this is the greatest country.”
This past summer, Adamski traveled the country and visited landmarks from military battles, such as the Alamo. “Because of veterans fighting for this country, it made your life that much better,” he said.
Another veteran, the oldest of the visitors, is 89 year-old Navy veteran Ed Middleton, who served on the USS South Dakota during World War II. Middleton, the father of Southern Elementary School Instructional Assistant Laurie Johnson, has also addressed students about Veteran’s Day for several years.
The USS South Dakota, which carried 2,350 men, was as long as two football fields as opposed to current battleships, which are twice that size and carry about 6,000 people. Middleton worked as a look-out on the top of the “superstructure of the ship.” Ships from WW II were either made into memorials or scrapped for metal, he said, and added that the USS South Dakota now serves as a memorial in South Dakota.
“If you have a chance to go aboard one of these ships, it’s fascinating what you can learn about history,” Middleton said.
: For Marine Corps veteran Tom Fogarty, the history and traditions of the Marine Corps are as rich as they are equally important. Fogerty joined the Marine Corps in 1953 and to this day, still considers himself one.
“Once you are a Marine, you are always a Marine,” Fogerty said.
For the last 11 years, since his grandson was in the fourth grade, Fogerty has visited the elementary students. He explained the significance of the birthday for the Marine Corps, which celebrated its 236th birthday just prior to Veteran’s Day.
“Marines are 25 percent the size of the Army and are the 911 force for the United States,” he said. They are deployed all over the world. If Americans are in jeopardy, Marines will go in for the rescue.”
Honor, courage and commitment are the core values that Marines live by, Fogerty explained to the students. Students may display honor in their day to day activities by not lying or cheating in school. They may also show courage by not bullying and they should be committed to following their dreams.
“I lived my entire life with these values. It is important that you do the same as you move forward in your lives,” Fogerty said.