Each year as the nation celebrates Veterans Day, St. Mary’s School in Bellevue takes time out of their school day to also honor, celebrate, salute and thank the veterans both past and present who have served and who continue to serve today to keep our nation safe and free from harm.
Each year men and women of the armed forces process into the school gym, many of them escorted by their child or grandchild, through a pathway created by Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts holding US flags high above their heads.
Once again the school was humbled by the presence of four World War II veterans, the oldest being 95 year old Mary Bezy, an Army nurse. Fran Sewell, 93 years young, a decoder for the U.S. Navy joined her as the other female World War II veteran. Donald Beeghly survived the Battle of the Bulge while George Pithan served in the Philippines. Approximately sixty other vets filled the chairs as Fr. Del Lape, pastor, opened the assembly with a prayer. The Bellevue East Jr. ROTC performed not only the opening and closing flag ceremonies but also a rifle display and a flag folding presentation. St. Mary’s alumnus Lt. Nick Walker led the color guard.
Guest speaker this year was Nebraska’s Lt. Governor, Mike Foley. Sitting alongside him was retired Brigadier General and Congressman –elect Don Bacon.
Eighth grade students led the assembly with speeches about each of the service branches; Music teacher, Peg Kallman, led the middle school students in singing service branch medleys after recognizing members of each branch and the first and kindergarten students stood to give their own blessing for the veterans. All students sang a thank you song.
The highlight of the assembly was the surprise arrival of SSgt. Hans Steinke, deployed a year ago to Quatar. He landed in Omaha and came to the veteran assembly to hug his son, Preston, a kindergartner, for the first time in a year.
Though all veterans were honored and thanked, this year’s focus was on the POW/MIAs. A white table, symbolic of their absence, was displayed and its meaning taught by students. Offutt Air Force Base’s lab is working daily to identify the remains of service men and women as there are still 83,000 veterans missing in action still today.
The assembly concluded with bugler, Max Poe, a veteran of the U.S. Army playing “Taps.” Then students, guests and veterans enjoyed patriotic treats, remembering how fortunate they are to live in a country protected by those who give so much of their lives to keep us safe from harm and to keep us free to honor, salute, and thank them not just on November 11th but each and every day. For more photos click here.