Thursday, October 26, 2017
By Billy Ludt
Students dressed in red, white and blue for the second day of Austintown Fitch High School’s spirit week shared a meal with veterans Wednesday.
Some 30 veterans from area organizations sat down with students during regular lunch periods.
“A lot of students don’t get to interact with veterans on a normal basis,” said student Seth Welch. “It’s good for veterans to get a better image of our generation, and it brings the communities together.”
Welch’s group, Students Helping Veterans, helped organize the event. The group maintains several veteran monuments on campus and assists with other veteran-related causes.
Leo Connelly Jr., commissioner of the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission, believes it’s important for veterans to share their stories.
“I think that students want to have questions answered, and we want to be able to communicate with our youth and give them an idea of what war’s all about,” he said.
Connelly served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968 after he was drafted Aug. 6, 1966. He spent six months in the jungle and another six months as a door gunner on a helicopter, a position that earned him a combat badge.
“There’s not enough money that could be printed or gold in Fort Knox to stop me from serving my country,” he said.
In addition, he was the recipient of three Army Commendation Medals for valor and nine Air medals for valor and is in the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for valor.
Veterans from Tri-State Marines 494, American Legion Post 301, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 2 and the Austintown Veterans of Foreign Wars post came to have lunch.
Ken David, an Army veteran who served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, told students that the military is an option for pursuing a career.
“Not everybody is made for college, and that’s OK,” he said. “They can still be whatever they want to be.”
David received the Distinguished Service Cross and two Purple Hearts and is in the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for valor.
Bob Guyan, a 1973 graduate of Fitch and an Army veteran, said Austintown schools are proactive when it comes to recognizing veterans from the area. Asked how lunch was, Guyan joked: “It’s just like eating in the military.”