A school tribute to Ely’s veterans

by Tom Coombe
Patriotism was on full display Thursday during a Veterans’ Day program at the Ely schools.
Veterans, including 98-year-old Elyite Calvin Herala, the only World War II vet in attendance, were saluted with words, music and applause by an audience of Ely’s student body, staff and community members.
About 600 people were inside the school’s gymnasium for the event, which returned to the school calendar this year after a Covid-19 prompted hiatus last fall.
From the gymnasium balcony, Washington Elementary students sung “I Love America,” while the audience listened as seventh-grader Mason Spate-Kurnava read his winning essay from the VFW’s “Patriot’s Pen” Contest.
“There are so many different ways you can be a good American,“ said Spate-Kurnava. “To be a good American, I need to help others, focus on benefiting my community, and learn from others around me.”
Spate-Kurnava provided tangible examples of his efforts, including his own volunteer work in the community, and taking time to consider opposing views.
“Someone else’s perspective can help you learn things in a new way,” said Spate-Kurnava. “The older I get the more I understand what it means.”
Spate-Kurnava added “America has helped other countries in many ways, such as giving food, medicine and even helping them fight for freedom.”
Principal Megan Anderson opened the program by acknowledging and thanking the dozens of veterans who turned out for the event.
“We are a proud community,” said Anderson. “It means so much being able to honor and thank you in person.”
Anderson asked veterans to stand and made particular note of Herala, who joined the military in 1942, the same year he graduated from Ely Memorial High School.
Veterans of the Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraqi conflicts were also represented and recognized. The program also included the traditional medley by the high school band, which played the theme songs from each branch of the military. Veterans stood and were applauded when the song of their respective branch was played.
Colors were presented and retired by the Ely Area Honor Guard for the event, which has been part of the school calendar for the last decade or so.