Fitch High School honors vets with lunch

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Austintown Fitch High School had a "Lunch with a Vet" event. Retired members of the military came to the school, sat with the students during lunch and offered discussions about the military and history.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Roger Bacon, Vietnam Veteran with three Purple Hearts and a Navy Commendation Medal for Valor, said the event has a good cause and benefits the children to learn history and know what options are available to them. He is pictured talking to two students about his time in the military.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Leo Connelly, who served in Vietnam and received three Army Commendation Medals for Valor and nine Air Medals for Valor, spoke to students about history and gave them his own perspective about the war and era. He is also the commissioner for the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission. Pictured, he stood with the students he talked to during lunch.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Austintown Fitch held a special assembly to honor the veterans who came to the school to talk to their students. The band and show choir performed for them. The show choir sang "God Bless the U.S.A." and the students in the stands stood and sang the chorus.

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.Ken David, a Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts and a Distinguished Service Cross, said he let the students ask him questions about whatever they wanted to know.

By ZACK SHIVELY

zshively@vindy.com

Austintown Fitch High School invited 27 veterans to their school to eat and talk with students on Oct. 25.

School board member Ken Jakubec and assistant principal Jim Penk organized the event. Jakubec himself served in the military. The veterans fought in either the Vietnam or Iraq wars.

Jakubec wanted to set up an event to precede the school’s annual Veteran’s Day assembly. He felt this gave the students a chance to really talk to the veterans and get to know their stories.

The students sat with the veteran’s during their lunch periods. The 27 veterans moved throughout the lunchroom during the three lunch periods. Not all veterans stayed for each period.

Ken David, Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts and a Distinguished Service Cross, spoke with students about a future in the military. He let the students ask questions and said they were very inquisitive. He also said he wanted to bring awareness to the freedoms that students have.

Penk said the program fit in well with the programs going on in the school, such as the Veteran’s Day assembly. The students recently created a group called “Students Helping Veterans,“ where students spend time assisting and honoring veterans.

Roger Bacon, Vietnam Veteran with three Purple Hearts and a Navy Commendation Medal for Valor, said that he thinks, “It is good that students have the opportunity to talk to vets,“ because the veterans’ perspectives cannot be taught in a book. He said the event has a good cause and benefits the children to learn history and know what options are available to them.

The school also has a program for students with family members serving in the military called “Purple Star.“ Penk said the school knows students with family members serving can have a difficult time coping. The program currently has organized a room for the students and has plans to create a way for the students to have video calls with their family.

Leo Connelly, who served in Vietnam and received three Army Commendation Medals for Valor and nine Air Medals for Valor, talked with students about putting the war and era in historical context. He said more schools should do the program because it gives the students a new perspective about history and the military.

Connelly and David have worked with the school in past. Both had spoke at different Veterans’ Nights that the school organized. Connelly described the school as being, “very vet friendly,“ because of the events the school has for veterans. Connelly and David are also both members of the Ohio Military Hall of Fame.

After the lunch, the students and veterans went to the gymnasium for a special assembly for the school to honor and thank the veterans. The band played a patriotic sequence and the show choir sang “God Bless the U.S.A.“ All the students in the school stood in the stands and sang the chorus. The choir walked up to the Veterans and personally thanked them for their service during the song.

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