Lackawanna Trail honors veterans
BY PATRICK LEONARD
Wyoming County Press Examiner
Lackawanna Trail High School held its annual Veterans Day program to honor America’s service men and women on Friday morning in the school auditorium.
The entire student body was present, with several students participating in the program, including the school’s concert band, chorus, as well as a group of students representing Boy Scout Troop 175.
“I’ve been here for five years and we have been doing this program since I got here,” Principal John Rushefski said. “It’s great for our students.”
Rushefski, in fact, believes that the remembrance is a crucial part of the students’ overall educational experience.
“Some school districts give their students the day off from school (for Veterans Day) but I don’t understand why,” Rushefski commented. “I think it’s more important to get them in here and understand what this holiday is all about.”
Rushefski led off the program by telling students about the armistice that was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, ending World War I and how that led to the origin of Veterans Day.
At the school to help the students understand the importance of Veterans Day were members of the American Legion Post 953 out of Nicholson.
Post Commander David Gohsler gave the opening address to the students, advising them on how important the American flag is and for what it stands.
“The flag represents freedom,” Gohsler said. “The freedom to get an education, to go to college, to vote. When you see that flag, take off your cap, put your hand over your heart, and show the proper respect.”
Veteran Dan Naylor, 30, a First Lieutenant in a National Guard Infantry Unit, served as the event’s main speaker.
The Trail speaker spoke of his tour of duty as a platoon leader in Afghanistan in 2008.
“Together with my platoon sergeant and my squad leaders, we planned over 350 combat missions during our tour,” Naylor told his captivated audience.
The young veteran also told the Trail students that some of the men with whom he served were injured or killed in Afghanistan and of how that has changed his perspective on life.
“One of our men, a good friend of mine, lost his leg in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” Naylor said. “I helped pull him out of his vehicle. Other guys weren’t so lucky. They gave their lives.
“It really taught me how short life is and how it can end so abruptly,” Naylor explained.
Another veteran who received special recognition from Rushefski on behalf of the Trail community was Joe Woolsey.
Woolsey is a veteran of World War II who was injured at the Battle of the Bulge. The Nicholson resident, upon completion of his military service, graduated from Penn State University and taught science classes at Lackawanna Trail for 41 years before retiring in 1987.
“I served in the Army for two years, one day, two hours, and 15 minutes,” Woolsey said with a grin.
Woolsey said he is proud to have served in the military. He is equally proud of his years at Lackawanna Trail. He said that he still makes it to as many school events as he can each year, including all of the Lions’ home football games.
At the conclusion of the program, students Molly Mattes and Lauryn Maleski played a beautiful rendition of “Taps” before band director Kevin Dikeman led the band’s playing of “Retiring of Colors” as the veterans from Post 953 marched in procession out of the auditorium.
Rushefski had one final message for the students before they were released to go back to class.
“I say this every year and I mean it,” Rushefski said. “Your homework for this weekend is to thank a veteran for their service to our country.”