Joining To Honor America’s VETERANS

It’s not all victory, glory, and warm welcomes for those in the U.S. armed forces.

Nor is it always fierce fighting, tracers lighting up the sky, and explosives arriving by surprise.

Sometimes it’s boredom, digging bunkers, and primitive bathroom facilities.

Whatever the service, the men and women whose duty it is are making sacrifices.

At the annual Sheffield Area Middle High School Veterans Day remembrance and recognition service, staff and students learned something about what it’s like to be deployed in a combat zone from two of their own.

The Leonhardts Spanish teacher Steve and former librarian Beverly each served overseas with the U.S. Army. Beverly was deployed to Iraq twice – in 2003 and again in 2005. Steve went to Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003.

They showed a video of the 101st Airborne Division and a slide show of some of the less exciting aspects of military life.

“In addition to honoring the veterans, it’s a chance to give the kids an inkling of what’s been done on their behalf – the price that was paid for the freedom that we all enjoy,” Steve said.

“They don’t know what it’s like,” Beverly said. “It’s an opportunity for them to get a first-hand account from someone who has made those sacrifices.”

The Leonhardts narrated the slide show.

“There’s a lot of sand everywhere,” Beverly said.

“You’re never really clean,” Steve said. “Electricity and air conditioning were things that we rarely got.”

“We lived in a hole in the ground for weeks and weeks,” he said. “You have your weapon and helmet there ready to go because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Beverly explained one of the main problems – “trying not to be distracted by how much you miss your family and everything that’s familiar.”

There are many hardships, but there are joys as well.

“It’s all about the little things,” Beverly said. “When you see these kids excited to see you – it makes a difference.”

“Friends are what keep you going,” she said. “Mail is always very important… about the best thing you could see coming.

And, “It’s always good when you come home.”

At a slide showing a building in Afghanistan, Steve explained that the saying “bombing them back to the Stone Age” didn’t apply there. “This place, unfortunately, was still in the Stone Age in many ways.”

Leaving that kind of place to return to the United States of America gives a new appreciation for our way of life.

“This is a wonderful country to live in,” he said. “We are all blessed to call it home.”

In attendance to post and retire the colors, and to stand as living examples for the students were members of the Sheffield/Clarendon VFW Color Guard.

“I hope the kids today realize that we’re losing men and women over there every day,” Gordon Lubold of VFW Post 8755, who served in the U.S. Navy, said. “They give us the freedom to be here today.”

“If you know any veterans, if you know anyone in the service, today would be the day to tell them thanks,” history teacher Jeff Lindquist said.