The Veterans Day assembly at Crucifixion Elementary School last Friday caused both students and staff to open up about the sacrifices that military veterans make for their country.
A panel of uniformed veterans performed a flag-folding procedure while they informed students of the meaning and symbols of the flag. The veterans then fielded questions from students regarding their military service.
One student asked why military officers sometimes wear gloves with their uniforms, and another asked why they decided to enlist. A couple of the veterans said they were just young, and seeking a new experience when they signed up.
American Legion Post 595 commander Michael Limberg had a different experience, and shared how his life was turned around by the call he got to serve. Limberg was raised in La Crosse and went to school at UW-La Crosse, and after graduating had job lined up in Green Bay to teach. On the day he signed his teaching contract, he was drafted into the army. Limberg said it was the first time he was away from home.
Sixth-graders Maddy Gaderneier and Olivia Johnson didn’t ask any questions during the panel, but they were in awe at some of the personal experiences veterans shared about the being drafted. Gaderneier and Johnson were also surprised by the variety of jobs veterans had during their service, and neither could imagine the difficulties they had to face.
“I would not be brave enough to just leave home like that,” said Johnson. Gaderneier agreed, and said she’d be scared to miss her family too much.
This year’s Veterans Day landed on the 15th anniversary of the death of Robert Adams, a former Crucifixion principal who died in a motorcycle accident.
Adams was a Vietnam veteran, who rescued soldiers via helicopter and survived two separate crashes during the war. Former Crucifixion Reverend Monsignor Donald Grubisch was a World War II veteran, piloting bomber planes in World War II.
After the assembly, Crucifixion head cook Jim Frie, gathered with a group of sixth-graders and shared memories about his brother who was a Vietnam veteran, and his father who served in World War II. Frie remembers how frightening the potential of getting drafted to serve in Vietnam was, and how the fear motivated him in school.
“If you didn’t keep your grades up in college and you slipped below a C-average, you were drafted and gone,” said Frie. “And within two months you were in a rice paddy up to your armpits.”
Frie recited a memory from when his brother was serving in Vietnam, and Marine Corps officers showed up at their home one day asking to speak to his parents, who were both working at the time. The officers wouldn’t tell Frie what had happened, and Frie said he’ll never forget thinking that his brother was dead, until finding out that he was only wounded.
The realities of the Vietnam War became vivid to Frie when he went to visit his brother in the Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Chicago, and walked with his father through ward after ward filled with injured marines to find his brother.