On Nov. 11 Hotchkiss High School students began their day with a special salute to three local veterans — Don Clay, Harold Cunningham and Bill Ela. They had been invited by Glen Suppes, assistant principal, because of their service on behalf of the nation.
Perhaps some veterans wonder if anyone cares about their sacrifices. And the answer is yes, many are grateful and that includes the student body at Hotchkiss High School.
"I've never seen such patriotism," Don Clay remarked late Monday afternoon. Earlier that morning while the National Anthem was sung, everyone stood with their hands over their hearts. Clay was touched.
The three veterans shared about their military experiences. Clay and Ela both served in World War II. Cunningham served during the Korean War.
Clay was in the Navy from April 1941 until October 1945. He manned the radio as part of a seven-person crew in PBY Catalina Flying Boats. Their mission was to search the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico six to eight hours a day looking for German submarines. Later he received a Purple Heart for being wounded during the invasion of Sicily.
Cunningham served with the U.S. Army in Battery D of the Third Automatic Weapons Battalion Third Division during the Korean War. His military service was from September 1951 until September 1952.
Ela served in the U.S. Navy during World War II from the summer of 1942 until June 1946. He wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. From there he applied to the V-12 Navy College Training Program and attended the University of Mexico. He stayed there until space opened up in the midshipman school in upstate New York at Cornell. He served on the Old Wyoming doing gunnery training. Then he went to Texas and commissioned a new destroyer, taking it to Guantanamo Bay and back to Norfolk, Va. The ship was retrofitted and Ela served on it all over the Pacific including Pearl Harbor, Guam and then Okinawa at the time of the Japanese surrender. He was a junior officer and stayed with the ship from September 1945 in Tokyo. The ship returned to the U.S. and was finally mothballed in San Diego. After his discharge he went to Harvard to study law on the GI Bill. Ela lost his brother in Okinawa while serving as a U.S. Marine.
Ela ended his talk to the students by stating, "Regardless of everything that they did for me in the way of education and the GI Bill, I still felt in retrospect that we would have been much better taking a diplomatic approach to the whole global affair from the beginning of World War II and right up to Afghanistan and Iran."
Speaking to the students was a first for each of the veterans. The veterans seemed amazed by the students' interest and enjoyed visiting with them after the presentation. As the veterans shook each student's hand they heard the words of congratulations and gratefulness for their service.
Suppes said Hotchkiss High School would like to make this an annual tradition on Veterans Day.blog comments powered by Disqus