The students and staff of Race Brook School in Orange gathered to honor veterans during a very special assembly on Friday morning, November 8th. The majority of the attending veterans were relatives and friends of the school’s families. The veterans were very grateful and impressed with the heartwarming welcome and attentive behavior of over four hundred elementary students during the hour and a half assembly. The assembly and the activities afterwards were planned and organized by the Veterans Day Committee: Kellie Martino, Kathy Battles, Janet Greenspan, Tina Denton, Jill Volmar, and Marie Olden. Kellie Martino and school principal, Mike Gray, began the assembly with a special thank you to attending veterans for their service and sacrifice to our country. Student Council was also able to provide over $400 in collected donations for House of Heroes, an organization that accepts donations to assist veterans with much needed home repairs.
“This year’s Veterans Day Activities were a tribute to a man who dedicated himself to serving his country and received many honors,” thoughtfully notes third grade teacher and committee member Janet Greenspan. “He and his family are now treasured members of the Race Brook Family, past and present,” she adds. Veteran Bob Swirsky would have been the oldest veteran at 99 years old from the Orange Community to attend the Assembly but passed away earlier in the year. Retired former teacher, JoAnne Escandon, gave the opening dedication to Mr. Swirsky, honoring him for his service. She and Principal Mike Gray were able to visit Mr. Swirsky in his home before he passed and present him with an honorary plaque. Mr. Swirsky was a radio operator in the Third Army Division of the United States First Army in Normandy during World War II. Among the three books he published in his nineties, is the book titled My War, A Story Which Involves Horror and Humor, by Tech Sergeant Bob Swirsky. Mr. Swirsky’s grandchildren attended Race Brook School, and he was a long-time guest at the school’s annual Veterans Day Assembly. He is remembered for his many treasured war stories and always taking the time to mention his fellow veterans.
Under the direction of the school’s music teacher, Marie Olden, the children sang well-rehearsed songs to pay tribute to the veterans, including the song “Proud of Our Veterans.” A powerful onscreen MS PowerPoint presentation displayed photos of veterans from the Race Brook Community with identifying captions. The children also wrote heartfelt poems of gratitude and handed them out to their guests during the assembly. Band members played Taps in honor of the veterans.
The veteran guests were further honored in the classrooms after the assembly where they had the opportunity to share their backgrounds in serving our country and answer questions for students. The veterans had the opportunity to continue their conversations in a continental breakfast reception provided by the Student Council and held in the school’s gymnasium. The guests were very touched by the school’s efforts to acknowledge all of the veterans as patriots and heroes who showed courage and strength and made many sacrifices for the freedom of our country.