On November 9th, Oak Hill Academy students, staff, and parents honored veterans during the school’s 16th annual Veterans Day program. Over 100 students in Pre-Kindergarten through 8thgrade performed by creating various tributes, doing dramatic readings, choreographing dance ensembles, singing, and playing instruments. Alumni students came back to perform, as well as, a professional brass duo, and the Christian Brothers Academy Pipes and Drums.
Patrice Murray, Director of Personnel/Administration, organized the annual program. Each year, she chooses a theme that will educate the students on a different aspect relating to the service of our veterans.
This year, the themes were “Respect for our Flag”, “Respecting and Supporting our Military”, “History of the Ghost Army,” “Ministry in the Military,” and “Military Dogs and Service Dogs,”amongst the traditional core themes of “Who is a Veteran,” and the “History of Veterans Day”.
Started in November of 2001 after the tragic events of September 11, Murray stated that “we (as a school) decided to recognize and honor those in the military who fought, and are still fighting, for our freedom and protection.”
The United States Marine Corp Color Guard, 25thLogistic Battalion, presented the colors at the opening of the program, with the Kindergarten leading the school in the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and under the direction of Mrs. Kelly Tyma, conducted all those in attendance in singing the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Student readers defined who was a veteran and briefly outlined the history of Veterans Day. The Oak Hill Players and their Musical Tribute to our Veterans followed then by The Oak Hill Chorus, along with Soloist, Mrs. Katie Amoroso performed “Song for the Unsung Hero” (Joseph & Pamela Martin) and “We Honor You” (Roger Emerson) under the direction of Mrs. Kelly Tyma, and accompanied on piano by Pamela Momyer.
As the students were describing the History of the Ghost Army: 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, a video slide show was in the background showing accompanying photos of this special, and up until 1996, top secret part of the US Army during World War II. Mrs. Beth Ann Griller organized the computer presentations that accompanied many of the themes.
Veterans who were in attendance were recognized throughout the program. As each veteran arrived, they were given pins to wear signifying their service to their country. OHA students and staff had submitted the names of veterans in their families. As Mrs. Pamela Momyer played the piano, the list of names was scrolling up on the 20-foot screen on the stage.
The Upper School Dance Ensemble performed their own choreographed routine under the Direction of Mrs. Bridget DeVivo to “Hall of Fame” by the Script.
The 26 members of the CBA Pipes and Drums, (including Oak Hill Alum, Tim Murray ’15 on base drum), led by Brother Frank Byrne, President of CBA, marched in with bagpipes and drums. Their five-song set brought the audience of over 550, to their feet!
A student lead lesson on “Ministry in the Military” was followed and enhanced by speaker Lieutenant Commander Kay Reeb, CHC, USN (Ret.) who gave the audience her perspective and lessons learned during her career as a chaplain in the US Navy.
8th Grader, Dario DelPriore, performed a heart felt and touching rendition of “America the Beautiful” as the program transitioned into speeches about “Our Flag” as well as a poem entitled, “I am the Flag” by Ruth Apperson Rous recited by students and math teacher and Blue Star Mother, Mrs. Rita Cotterell.
CBA junior and OHA Alum ’14, John Gabriel Bermudez played a traditional folk tune, “The Water is Wide” on his acoustic guitar while beautiful scenery played in the background.
Student speakers then presented their tribute to “Military Dogs and Service Dogs”, which was followed by Mrs. Marion Zilinski, Gold Star Mother of Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski , II spoke about her son’s service to our country. Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II was a Middletown Native, graduate of CBA and West Point and Army Ranger 101st Airborne who lost his life in Iraq in 2005. The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Foundation provides support and improves the morale of wounded veterans by offering scholarships, donation to service dogs, sending supplies for military working dogs and helping in any other way to ease their transition back into society. Oak Hill Academy will be supporting the foundation through a dress down day will all of the monies going to this worthwhile cause.
Two local musicians, Tom Bender and Mr. John Morrison, played the trumpet and were accompanied by Mrs. Pam Momyer on piano. They played “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “A Tribute to the Armed Service.” As the song from each branch was played, Mrs. Kelly Tyma, OHA music teacher, announced it. The veterans in the audience stood for their branch’s song. The audience gave a rousing applause to each group of veterans that stood for their song.
At the conclusion of the program, Headmaster Joseph A. Pacelli read a proclamation, stating “On Veterans Day, America pauses to honor every service member who has ever worn one of our Nation’s uniforms….” Pacelli concluded, “remember those who sacrificed their lives every moment to achieve peace and democracy.”
Finally, Patrice Murray asked that each veteran stand and be recognized. She said, “We salute you, we thank you.”
The playing of “Taps” along with a moment of silence concluded the program.
The Veterans Day program has become an important tradition at Oak Hill Academy. The youngest generation is learning about all of our veterans and the greatest generation, too. They have learned to honor, respect and revere those in uniform.