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New Windsor Middle School celebrates veterans

New Windsor Middle School eighth graders, from left, Tate Bittner, Alex See, Emalie Venters, and Tiffany Green salute after singing a song thanking veterans for their service during a Veterans Day ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 11 in New Windsor.
New Windsor Middle School eighth graders, from left, Tate Bittner, Alex See, Emalie Venters, and Tiffany Green salute after singing a song thanking veterans for their service during a Veterans Day ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 11 in New Windsor. (DAVE MUNCHSTAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

NEW WINDSOR -- For the faculty and students at New Windsor Middle School, their Veterans Day celebration involved a personal approach.

"I've been best friends with the assistant principal [Janel Fosnot] since we were in middle school," said Capt. Kristen Johnson, an active duty U.S. Army officer.

Johnson presented a slide show to students Tuesday morning to teach them about what life is like in the armed forces. Her presentation explained how Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day and the living conditions of deployed service members and featured pictures from her 2009 deployment to Iraq.

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Calling it a "great honor" to have been asked to speak to the students, Johnson said she wanted her presentation to be engaging.

"I tried to come up with topics that would appeal to the middle school audience," Johnson said.

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She gave tips on how to treat service members, advising students to remain respectful and quiet during the national anthem, and to thank service members for their service.

Her talk was followed by a PowerPoint presentation created by the Student Government Association that showed photos of the servicemen and women who are related to staff and students.

"We encourage everyone to thank veterans not just today but each day of the year," SGA President Alicia Hoff said.

After the veterans celebration, parents who served in the Army and Marine Corps shared their thoughts on the event.

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"It was really good," said Mindy Lawson, a Marine Corps corporal from 1991 to 1995 and mother of eighth-grader Marissa Lawson.

"They did a really good job explaining what it's like to be in the military."

Shelby Sawyers, father of eighth-grader Haley Sawyers, served as a special operations communications sergeant from 1985 to 1992 for the Army Reserve.

"Any time you can present a display, it helps them understand what it's like, and I'm sure plenty of them have veterans in their own family," he said.

Principal Erin Brilhart agreed that it's commonplace for New Windsor Middle students to have family members in the armed services.

"For a small school in a fairly small community, we have a lot of parents and grandparents who have served," Brilhart said.

Brilhart said Johnson's presentation gave students a perspective of what life is like in the armed forces.

He also said he hoped students gained "the understanding of what it means to be a veteran and the amount of work people in the service put fourth to keep us all safe and free."

Three eighth-grade SGA members each had their own favorites from the presentation.

"I like that they had an actual service member talking about her term," Felicity Eriksson said.

Alicia Hoff preferred the PowerPoint showing pictures of those serving who are related to staff members and students.

"I liked the PowerPoint because I think it did a really good job showing all the veterans," she said.

Preston Jones also appreciated the personal connection.

"I learned a lot of people I know are related to a lot of people that were serving," he said.

After Johnson's presentation and the SGA presentation, Brilhart reminded students to give thanks to veterans whenever the opportunity arises.

"There is a very rich history of veterans in our own community," he said. "On this Veterans Day and every day, let's make sure all our veterans know how much we appreciate all of them."

Reach Sarah Hainesworth at 410-857-7873 or sahainesworth@tribune.com.

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