Praising the fighters for freedom

SCMS pays tribute to community veterans

Leader Photos by Lee Pulaski Marine Cpl. Greg Waupekenay, left, talks with National Guard Lt. Rod Watson, associate principal at Shawano Community Middle School, and eighth-grade students Nathan Ahler, second from right, and Domanic Helder in the middle school commons Friday following the school’s Veterans Day tribute.

Shawano Community Middle School students paid tribute to the community’s veterans during their annual Veterans Day ceremony Friday — holding their flags, singing their songs and recounting their stories.

The ceremony featured a number of student speeches that honored veterans. Many of the students spoke with veterans, and many more had someone who serves in the military today.

Tristan Tetting, a seventh-grade student, said Veterans Day should be every day.

“Veterans spend more time with their unit than they do their family,” Tetting said. “They see each other as family. They have a stronger bond than anyone can imagine.”

Shayna Daney, a sixth-grade student, told the crowd about her great-grandfather, Eugene Schultz, who joined the Army at 19 years old and served in the Vietnam War. Daney said her great-grandfather had to either serve his country or go to jail because of the draft.

“He was a unit armorer and serviced all the weapons,” Daney said. “My great-grandpa Eugene said, ‘I will never regret my decision to serve my country because it was an opportunity to change the world.’”

George Buerman, a seventh-grade student, noted that respected is earned, not given, and those who serve in the military have more than earned the country’s respect.

“Veterans must pause their own lives to protect ours,” Buerman said. “They work 24 hours a day so we can have a peaceful night’s sleep. When duty called, they didn’t complain and say ‘Five more minutes.’ Instead, they bolted out of bed to serve America. They served our country so we wouldn’t have to.”

The ceremony featured retired Army Col. Richard Kucksdorf, who was a 1972 graduate of Shawano High School, which occupied the building where the middle school is today. Kucksdorf told the crowd that it is “easier” for those who serve in the military than it is for those who remain at home.

“They never know. They just don’t know” what the service men and women are facing at any given time, Kucksdorf said.

Kucksdorf, also a retired postmaster, told the students that patriotism means many things to many people, whether it’s reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or saluting the American flag as it passes by.

“Research shows that, when we place our hands on our hearts, we’re more honest with others,” Kucksdorf said.

Associate principal Rod Watson, who serves as a lieutenant in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, told students that this year’s Veterans Day holds special meaning because it was 100 years ago this Sunday that the armistice was signed to end World War I.

“One hundred years ago today, we were fighting the worst war the world had ever known by far,” Watson said. “At 11 o’clock — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — we decided to stop killing each other and World War I ended all of sudden after four years of bloodshed.”

The oldest veteran in the audience was Bob Voss, a 98-year-old man who served in World War II who served as a company commander, Watson said. There were also veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam War and other conflicts that took place all over the world.