Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Students Offer Veterans Prayers, Songs Of Thanks

Published November 20, 2008

Throughout Atlanta archdiocesan schools, students, faculty and staff showed honor and respect for those who have served in the U.S. military by holding Veterans Day events featuring songs, speakers and prayer as avenues to express their thanks.

While the ways these schools expressed their gratitude varied, the spirit of the events remained united—a time to remember all those who made it possible for the students and staff to enjoy the many freedoms they have come to know and cherish.

Christ the King School brought all of their students together to pray for American veterans, but especially for Pfc. Hunter Levine, a young American soldier severely wounded in Iraq earlier this year.

The school community “adopted” Levine about four weeks ago and has been sending him gifts and cards. When Levine’s commander sent an e-mail to his former West Point classmates requesting prayers for the young soldier, one of those receiving it was John Ward, whose wife, Tricia, is the school’s assistant principal.

“Touched by the commander’s care for one of his young men, Tricia invited the faculty to think of ways that we might help him,” said Rose Maksimowski, school religion coordinator.

“The next morning, Tricia’s office was teeming with faculty members, who decided overnight that they wanted to help,” she said. “Teachers brought in iTunes (gift) cards, books on tape and all kinds of treats to send off to him. The faculty shared Pfc. Levine’s story with their students, who immediately wanted to send their thoughts and well-wishes.”

They felt Veterans Day was an especially appropriate time to share their feelings about the sacrifices the young man made for his country.

On Nov. 11, the entire school, including nearly 560 students, gathered outside to take a picture to send him. Students in the front row held a large banner that read, “We salute you Pfc. Hunter Levine.”

Students, faculty, staff and parents gathered outside to begin the day with prayer.

“Dear God, thank you for all the things you have given me, especially, shelter, food and a good family,” prayed fourth-grader Gus Eckstein.

“Lord, please help all the people who don’t have those things to get a job to make their life easier. We especially ask you to help Private First Class Hunter Levine, who was badly hurt in Iraq, to recover from his injuries. On this day, Veterans Day, please watch over all veterans, especially those still serving,” he said.

Later in the gym the students sang Lee Greenwood’s famous “God Bless the USA” and videotaped the performance to send to Levine, along with the group picture.

Maj. Eric Capers also spoke, describing his experiences in the Army, particularly in Iraq, and encouraging the children to remember the soldiers who help protect the freedoms they enjoy.

“My story is one of many veterans who served the country,” said Capers, who has received an Air Medal and Bronze Star Medal for his service. “Don’t take your freedom for granted.”

The former pilot, who has more than 1,300 flight hours, 300 in combat operations in Iraq, shared photos of his tours with the children and described what it was like to be there for several months.

Other schools, such as Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Atlanta, and Holy Redeemer School, Alpharetta, invited veterans to their schools to show their appreciation.

Holy Redeemer School honored veterans who are family members and close friends of students on Nov. 5. This second annual Veterans Day event at Holy Redeemer included a presentation of the colors by the Centennial High School Jr. ROTC and a drill program by midshipmen from the Atlanta region Navy ROTC.

Maj. Ken Hutnick, who introduced and gave tribute to the veterans, served as the keynote speaker. Fourth-graders at Holy Redeemer pleased the crowd with their singing of “America We,” “America the Beautiful” and “Thank a Vet.”

Roger Wise Jr. gave a special certificate of appreciation to Holy Redeemer from Gov. Sonny Perdue for its veterans program. A reception followed for the veterans hosted by the students.

Several veterans were also present for an assembly at IHM on Nov. 13. Tommy Thompson, staff chaplain at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, told the story of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” in his own unique way.

“They have proven that freedom isn’t free,” said Thompson, a longtime Army chaplain, about the veterans. “It takes faith to fight and win for liberty.”

Retired Maj. Carlos Morgan also treated the crowd to his rendition of “God Bless the USA,” which brought tears to the eyes of many throughout the gym as the veteran passionately sang every note of the popular song.

Following the assembly, the veterans filed into the school’s cafeteria for refreshments and entertainment. While the honored guests enjoyed fresh fruit, muffins, coffee and other breakfast treats, the second-grade class at IHM sang patriotic songs to the veterans, including “This Land Is Your Land” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

Jim Sedlack, a World War II veteran, and his wife, Pat, have been IHM parishioners for 50 years and married for almost 60 years. They enjoy coming to the Veterans Day celebration every year.

“It is wonderful,” said Pat Sedlack, adding that the celebrations are as much for the children as they are for the veterans.

“This is the kind of thing they will remember,” said Maksimowski.