Students at St. John Elementary heard a message of patriotism, freedom and what it costs to keep that freedom available for all Americans, including themselves, from local military veterans Roger Dick and Marion Alpers.
Dick and Alpers took an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in April with a group of other veterans, including four World War II veterans, 20 Korean War veterans and nine Vietnam Vietnam veterans. They shared their experience with St. John students at a school assembly earlier this month, recalling their activities and feelings about the trip and being in the service.
The students had already been a part of that trip because some had written letters, both as individuals and as a class, to the veterans and they were delivered in Washington during a mail call.
Dick said the biggest point he wanted to make was to install a sense of patriotism with the children. He has grandchildren in the school and his second-grade grandson got to see him give his speech. His grandchildren also went to Wichita to greet the veterans when they returned from Washington in early May.
Dick said he wanted the children to know that this was a free country when they don’t have to worry about where their food comes from or what religion they are and it was through the efforts of the people in the military that help protect the country.
The children were respectful as they presented their speeches and a slide show of their trip to Washington at the school assembly. Their messages showed how they understood what the Pledge of Alligence means and that war was not about glory, but about service to country and people.
For the men who went to Washington, their trip had many special moments. They told how they visited Fort McHenry and the National Archives with the Constitution, Bill of Rights Declarations of War and many other important documents. They visited the Washington Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Air Force Memorial and Navy Memorial. They also visited Arlington National Cemetery and saw the Robert E. Lee mansion. They visited the tomb of the unknown soldier.
For some of the veterans, the memories the memorials brought back were too vivid and they didn’t want to talk about it. For Dick, the Vietnam Wall was very intense. The names of the 58,000 lost in the war belonged to 18- and 19-year-olds, some who were his friends.
“It was emotional and humbling,” Dick said.
Dick served in the United States Army from 1965 to 1969 and was a Specialist Fifth Class who decoded messages with the Army Security Agency that worked for the National Security Agency. He spent two years in Hokkaido, Japan, and one year in Turkey.
“War is not good but it was a necessity to protect our country,” Dick said. “The Honor Flight program was great and I felt humbled to be allowed to go with my fellow veterans to Washington D.C.
Alpers served in the United States Army during 1952-1953.