By ELISE McKEOWN SKOLNICK
Students at Poland Seminary High School honored local veterans at an assembly Nov. 11.
The wind ensemble, under the direction of Nick Olesko, played the Armed Forces Salute, during which members of each branch of the military were invited to stand. They received applause from the students in the auditorium.
The guest speaker for the event was Jack Betts, a substitute teacher in the district and veteran of the Navy.
Betts told the students a bit about World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and about three mementos that are very important to him. The first is why he always wears a sports coat. Many think it’s because he’s old-fashioned, he said. He agreed that he’s old, and since he doesn’t text, old-fashioned, but he wears the sports coat because it’s the only way he can wear his small red, white and blue enamel button with two letters and three words: U.S. Navy Honorable Discharge.
“It tells me and others that I served, but not only that I served, I served honorably,” Betts said.
The other mementos are a little different. Following the first three wars he discussed, veterans came home to respect, he said. But for veterans of the Vietnam War it was a different story.
“They didn’t come home to cheers,” he said. “They came home to jeers.”
After that, Betts wasn’t sure how young people looked at veterans. But, years after speaking at Austintown Fitch High School, he received a letter from a student that thanked him for serving and for impacting his life with his speech. The letter is the second memento.
The third memento is a notebook of thank-you’s from Poland students given after his speech two years ago.
He said he knows if the call comes, there’s a whole generation of young people ready to fight.
“So, today, I don’t salute the veterans, I salute you,” he told the students. “Thank you for showing us respect, thank you for giving us honor and thank you for just thanking us.”
Ridge Awadallah, a sophomore, said the speech was inspirational.
“It was great,” he said. “I got the chills.”