Norridge, Harwood Heights schools honor veterans for their service
Frank Bottigliero (left), a U.S. Air Force veteran and director of veterans affairs for the Veterans Assistance Center in Norridge, gets a thank you card from Pennoyer School kindergartner Trinity Saber Nov. 9. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:11AM
NORRIDGE — Patriotic songs, thank-you cards and words of appreciation filled the air as students in Norridge and Harwood Heights honored veterans at school ceremonies.
Waving American flags, students at Pennoyer School in Norridge serenaded their guests.
Vietnam-era veteran Greg Myles served in the Army 101st Special Forces, based in Panama.
“We went in first, and cleared the way,” he said. “We built the first air strip so planes could land.
“We had to parachute in.”
He said the place was nothing but jungle they cleared with machetes before equipment was parachuted in.
Robert Rudek, a Vietnam veteran, served in the U.S Navy aboard the USS La Salle, an auxiliary flag ship for Commander, Middle East force.
“It was an honor serving in the U.S. Navy,” he said. “We were out there protecting the world.
“Same thing we’re doing now.”
Bill Pelarenos served in the U.S. Navy from 1980-86 as an aviation electrician based in Millington, Tenn.
Asked why he joined, Pelarenos said with a laugh, “Like Steve McQueen said in The Magnificent Seven, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
“Actually, it was a career move to learn a trade and see other places beside Illinois,” he added.
Reading the words inscribed on the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C., Pennoyer student Alex Pelarenos said, “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.
“Those words apply equally to many of our … veterans.
“Today we celebrate America’s veterans for keeping this nation ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’”
While thankful for the acknowledgement and appreciation shown to him and fellow veterans, Myles reminded students to honor the unknown soldier.
“He gave his life for this country,” Myles said. “On this day, we place a wreath on his tomb.”
Teacher Dan Chambers, organizer of Veterans Day ceremonies at Union Ridge School, said his school’s assembly was designed to give students the opportunity to make Veterans Day come alive.
“We start with the students by asking them to bring in veterans, maybe a family member or a neighbor,” he said. “Then we open up the program to area veterans.
“We want to get as many veterans as possible and make this a community event.”
Chambers said the program is all about veterans and showing them appreciation by having students issue the invitations.
At Union Ridge, each veteran teamed up with a student to discuss various topics, including service. Students then escorted the veterans to the ceremony in their honor, where each veteran received a pin of appreciation.
Kiana Cisek brought her neighbor, Brian Kinzie.
“He tells me stories, and I thought it would be pretty cool to bring him so he could share them,” she said. “And I thought it would be a good way to show him respect.”
Jeremy Silva escorted Mel Williams to the ceremony.
“He sat down and told me stories,” Silva said. “It was good to actually meet someone who served.
“He was a pilot in the Korean war, and he told me how he felt to be there and what it was like.”