1,000 at Crofton Middle honor veterans


November 13, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MORE THAN 1,000 people gathered at Crofton Middle School to celebrate the nation and the veterans who served to keep it strong. The school's third annual Veterans Day ceremony was held Friday in front of the school.

The program was organized by Col. Bill Holmes, retired from the Army and from his second career as a teacher at Crofton Middle School.

"What a day to be an American," Holmes said as he opened the ceremony.

The crisp, clear November air carried the bugler's "Call to Colors" across the crowd of pupils, veterans, parents and friends. As the Boy Scouts raised the flag, a gust of wind caught the banner and set it waving against the sky.

Leslie Agre, a social studies teacher, sang the national anthem, followed by Student Government Association President Jennifer Humphrey, who led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Rev. Patrick Kemp, recently retired as pastor of St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in Bowie, presented the poem "Bring Them Home."

Kemp served in the military during World War II, taking part in the D-Day invasion in June 1944. When he returned to America after the war, he studied at Georgetown University and entered the priesthood. His message to the children was appreciation for the country.

Crofton Middle School pupils David Krepps, Michael Gardner, Leah Potok and David Keffer read stories of veterans' lives.

The school glee club sang a medley of patriotic songs. Navy Capt. David Hearding, who is retired, talked about the importance of this year, the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and how the lessons of that time apply to life today. Hearding introduced Alfred Kruchelski, a survivor of Pearl Harbor.

Navy Petty Officer Jody Stiles, a bugler, played taps. Then, Spanish teacher Marty Clayton sang "God Bless America."

Clayton recalled singing the Irving Berlin song at last year's ceremony, where she told the pupils that the song was written as a source of strength at a time when our country faced peril.

"This year, it's not a history lesson. It's our lives," she said, speaking of the terrorism of Sept. 11.

After the ceremony, many of the veterans met with children in classrooms.

Kruchelski visited Susan Casler's eighth-grade language arts class. He shared pictures of Pearl Harbor and talked about his time in the Navy, at Pearl Harbor, at Guadalcanal and throughout the Pacific.

"The kids got a lot out of meeting him," said Casler, who was impressed by Kruchelski's kindness and his openness with the children.

Every branch of the service was represented Friday.

Doug Casler (Susan's husband) served on a Navy submarine during the Vietnam War. He said he was touched by the ceremony's sense of patriotism.

Martha Sykora is a mother and a talented needlewoman. She is also an Air Force veteran who was a nurse during the Persian Gulf war. Friday morning, she donned black boots and camouflage uniform to join in honoring colleagues and country.

Coast Guard Capt. Michael Lapinski also took part in the day. His son Bobby attends Crofton Middle.

David Keffer's father, Tony, who worked in air defense for the Army, also took part.

Edward Murchie was a Marine during World War II. He said it's important that young people understand the gift they have been given through the sacrifices of the veterans over the years.

The pupils were encouraged to bring American flags.

Susan Casler, whose father served in Normandy during World War II, provided the flag that her mother was given at her father's funeral. Her pupils carried the flag throughout the ceremony.

Preservation project

Bells rang and prayers were offered for world peace at Sunday morning's ceremony celebrating the beginning of work on a preservation project at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Odenton.

The chapel was built in 1918 to serve as a home away from home for the soldiers at Fort Meade, then called Camp Meade. The Rev. Phebe L. McPherson, rector of the parish, said the chapel was more than just a place for Sunday services.

"Dances were held, dinners were served, goodbyes were spoken, prayers were offered," McPherson said. "It was a place of support for these young people, a place to say farewell before encountering the horrors of war on another continent and a place for everyone to pray for them."

Today, the church still serves as a focus of community and spiritual support for about 100 area families.

In the 1930s, the original board and batten walls were covered with shingles. In the 1960s, siding was added. After several years of planning and fund raising, the parish has begun a "preservation project" to restore the building to its original condition.

The first step was taken Sunday, in remembrance of the peace that was declared on Armistice Day in 1918. The ceremonial "stripping of the siding" marked the beginning of the work phase of the project, scheduled to be completed in two to three months.

The parish also is planting a memorial garden on the Odenton Street side of the chapel in appreciation of the chaplains who served in World War I.

CARP meeting

Crofton Area Retired Persons (CARP) will meet at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Center.

Bob Duckman, who was a radio disc jockey in the Washington area, will present a program of music from the 1940s and 1950s.

Membership in CARP is open to area retirees age 55 and older. Annual dues are $10, and the monthly luncheon meetings are $7.

Information: Patrick Rubilotta, 410-721-2148.

German culture group

The Christian German American Women's Group will meet at noon Monday in the social hall of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Odenton, a new location.

Dorothea Derickson will address the group on the theme "God Is Light." Afterward, a German lunch will be served, and singing, accompanied by pianist Heidi Zech, is scheduled.

The club is open to all women interested in German language and culture and support of missionaries in Alaska.

Information: Irene Kucholik, 301-621-7862, or Karin Jackson, 301-855-6877.

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