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Honoring those who served

Canyon Springs salutes vets

Posted: November 8, 2008 8:27 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Mike Boyd sings "American Soldier" to the local veterans honored at Canyon Springs Elementary School on Thursday morning.

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Canyon Springs Elementary School students sang “America, the Beautiful” as 12 veterans of all ages marched into the multipurpose room, each escorted by a member of the Student Affairs Organization.

The Canyon Country school held its second annual Veterans Day Celebration Thursday morning, honoring veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The day I turned 20 I was sworn into the United States Navy,” Helen Johnston told the students seated on the floor around the stage.

Johnston, 83, joined the WAVES, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, during World War II, working in a Navy hospital where she helped deliver the babies of military wives.

“How better could I serve our men overseas than by helping their families?” Johnston said.

Richard Roelofs, 87, said his parents wanted him to wait until he was drafted into World War II, but he couldn’t wait. He enlisted and signed up to do fire control, thinking he would be putting out fires.

“It turns out they had me working with the equipment that controlled the firing of the guns,” Roelofs said.
Roelofs helped install the fire control equipment on the destroyer U.S.S. David W. Taylor and served on that ship during the war. He also served in the Korean War.

Wearing a blue vest covered with medals, Jim Hildreth, 88, told the students that he was on a ship in Manila Bay in the Philippines when World War II started.

“I saw combat immediately, the first day of the war,” Hildreth said.

Hildreth was captured and spent three and a half years in a Japanese prison camp. The military sent a telegram to his mother, saying he was missing in action. “That is a fear that no mom needs,” Hildreth said. “I was able to return to my mother, but a lot of men didn’t. A lot of moms lost their babies.”
Hildreth then read a poem to the students titled, “A Veteran’s Poem.”

Jasmin Bravo, 28, was sent overseas to Saudi Arabia after 9/11 and had to leave her two young children. “I freaked out just like everybody else. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to war — I don’t want to die,”’ Bravo said. “The whole time I was there, I kept thinking about my kids and hoping that everything was all right back in the states.”

Other veterans who attended the event were Mayor Bob Kellar, 64, Vietnam War; Ruben Trejo, 63, Vietnam War; Erik Potter, 42, Desert Storm; Becky James, 55, Vietnam War; Houston Turner, 86, World War II; Phyllis Capelle, 86, World War II; Joe Pietroforte, 88, World War II; and Albert Rodriguez, 33, Iraq.

After the veterans told their stories, each was presented with a citizenship medal. “Veterans, please accept these medals of citizenship as a way of showing our gratitude,” said Hannah Halstead, sixth grader and Student Affairs Organization executive officer.

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