HAMMOND — Lindsey Gulatta, 13, listened to Sal Lamonte talk about his experiences in the Korean War on Friday in the Holy Ghost Catholic School Gym.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students gathered to hear veterans talk about their time in the military and ask them questions in an effort to understand what they had been through so the children could thank them for their service.
“What was the hardest part about being on a ship that long,” Vincent Caronna, 12, asked Pat Farris, 44, a veteran of the Navy and National Guard who served in Operation Desert Storm.
After he paused for a moment to recall the details, Farris answered, “the confinement. All of us felt that way. We had 9,200 people onboard.
“And the non-sleep and the extremely cold showers we had to take.”
About a half a dozen veterans — from the Vietnam War, the Korean War and Desert Storm — talked to the students for about an hour, relaying their toughest moments during their time in the military.
For Brinley Ribando, 12, a seventh-grader, Friday’s gathering taught her more about what these and other veterans experienced while fighting for their freedom.
“It makes me respect them more now that I get to hear about it,” Brinley said.
The students will take what they learned and write gratitude letters to these and all veterans. Some students will then be selected to read their letters during the fourth annual Veterans Day Luncheon at the The Michael J. Kenney Recreation Department, 601 W. Coleman Ave., in Hammond.
“I hope you take what we’ve talked about here and know what these men and women have sacrificed for our freedom,” said Linda Irwin, seniors activity coordinator for the city of Hammond and organizer of the veterans luncheon.
As Lamonte talked about losing so many men in the Korean War, one student raised her hand and asked him, “If you could, would you do it all over again?”
Without hesitation, Lamonte and the rest of the veterans invited to talk to the students said, “yes.”
“To protect my country, yes, I would do it again,” Lamonte said.
Harris said he knows that what he and other veterans have done in past wars has “provided a better future for all of us.”
He urged the students to “keep your face forward and your feet on the ground, and remember, this is America.”
At the end of the program, Vincent said he enjoyed hearing from the veterans and hopes the school focuses more on “modern history.”
“We learn about the Indians and the dark ages, but we don’t learn a lot about modern history,” he said.
“Once all of these people are gone, the information is gone.”
“I learned that we should keep the history of the wars alive because they (veterans) put their lives on the line for us,” Lindsey said.
The Veterans Day Luncheon will be at 11 a.m. Nov. 8. The program includes speakers Louis Nick Joseph, retired chief warrant officer 5 and Lt. Col. John Bonnette of the U.S. Army National Guard. Entertainment will be provided by members of the Old Guys Band, Hammond Recreation Line Dancers and the Fleur De Lis Dancers (ages 3 to 15).
Approximately 350 veterans and their families are expected to attend the event, Irwin said.
For information about the luncheon, call Irwin at (985) 277-5906.
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