Joe Verrone, commander of Plainview Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5942, drew the fourth graders in by showing the combat medals awarded for his service that were pinned to his hat.
Verrone was one of 10 veterans from the VFW post who spoke about their service to nearly 180 third- and fourth-graders at Parkway Elementary School in Plainview during the school’s “Bring a Veteran to School Day” program on Friday.
“I showed them my Purple Heart, Bronze Star and other medals,” said Verrone, 71, of Old Bethpage. “I’m glad they’re interested in what I have to say. Nowadays, a lot of these kids don’t know about the wars or what the guys go through. I could tell they were interested.”
Fourth-grader Justin Siegel asked about how Verrone got his medals, and another student asked if he was afraid when serving or if he regretted the experience.
Verrone, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam in 1964, quickly responded that he’d do anything to protect his country and has no regrets having served in the armed forces.
“He’s a brave man,” said Justin, 9, of Plainview. “I’m glad he came to speak to us.”
Another veteran who provided insight and perspective from his military experiences was Tom Fahrenholz, who showed students his dog tags from Vietnam.
“You had to have your dog tags on, and before you could even eat you’d have to memorize everything that was on them,” Fahrenholz, 63, of Plainview, said to students. “And I wasn’t missing a meal. We were honored to be over there helping people.”
Third-grader Goel Halfon was most interested in Fahrenholz’ dog tags because the 8-year-old often wears his grandfather’s dog tags from serving in the Israeli Army.
Fourth-grade teacher Brianna Hamrah organized the event to teach students the true meaning of Veterans Day and to provide students with strong role models.
“These are the people they should be looking up to,” said Hamrah, 30, of Islip. “I had each veteran put their name and service on a paper star so we could hang them all up on our wall so the kids can be reminded of how thankful we should be for their service.”