Soldiers share experiences with Ring Lardner students
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Jason Woods of Niles recently came back from the conflict in Iraq.
On Thursday, Woods and several other veterans, young and old, were honored by Ring Lardner Middle School's students.
During a two-hour program, several students read essays honoring the veterans and talked about the importance of Veterans Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 11.
The school's two bands and choir sang patriotic songs and guest speaker Lou Liebetrau, Veteran's Memorial Committee co-chair, told the students about the effort to build a veterans memorial in Niles.
In addition, a representative from the Army's recruiting office in Niles showed students live images from past battles in which American soldiers have fought.
After an introduction of the veterans toward the end of the program, the Ring Lardner gym exploded with standing ovations.
That was the students' own way of showing appreciation of the sacrifices the veterans have made.
Woods, who is still serving and has been in the U.S Marine Corp. South Bend Engineer Comp. B 6th ESB, since 1997, has gotten used to positive recognition since his return from Iraq.
Lance Cpl. Jon Lea, another young veteran, sat next to Woods during the program.
The two serve in the same company.
Also Lea recently came back from Iraq.
Since returning, Lea said there has been open arms and warm welcomes wherever he has gone.
Although people have been friendly and it's exciting to be home, however, Lea said it takes time to adjust to normal life again.
He said among the difficult things to get used to is being in a crowd again.
Joe Zdziebko, a Ring Lardner Physical Education teacher and athletic coordinator, said the school organized a similar event honoring veterans two years ago.
The first event was organized by Linda Keyser, a retired Ring Lardner teacher, he said.
Zdziebko said the goal is to honor veterans every two years.
The year between, the school puts focus on people who serve the community, such as police and firefighters, he said.
He thinks the 7 and 8 graders understand what veterans are, but he hopes the program made the students aware of the sacrifices the veterans have made.
Ken Working of Niles retired as a teacher from Ring Lardner two years ago.
He spent two years with the U.S Army in Vietnam from from 1967 to 1969.
He was glad to be in the Ring Lardner gym on Thursday.
Like Zdziebko, Working hopes the event gives the students an understanding of what is happening and what goes on when soldiers go off to war.
Adarian Haynes, a Ring Lardner student, said he enjoyed the two hour program.
Haynes also said the movie made him understand more of what soldiers go through when they are at war.