SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — The sight of children, hands over their hearts for the American flag always kicks Don Otto in the soul.
A member of the American Legion 103 Color Guard, Otto and his fellow servicemen were the source of awe as they marched through the gymnasium at St. John School on Monday as part of the Veteran’s Day program.
“To see those kids with their hands over their hearts, it makes me thankful that they recognize veterans and they know what we are here for and what Veteran’s Day means,” he said.
The program, which was open to local veterans and their families, included a pinning ceremony of honor for 20 servicemen.
“We are so honored to be able to recognize these brave men and women here today,” school president Sister Maureen Burke said.
Frank Starkey, 87, dressed as Uncle Sam to receive his pin. He brought along a photo of himself as a serviceman, to show the students.
“It is a lot of fun to get dressed up,” he said. “I know how to relate to kids, and I think it’s great that they show so much enthusiasm for veterans.”
The program featured Hospice of the Western Reserve’s “We Honor Veterans” program. The program, developed by the National Hospice of the Western Reserve, along with their palliative care organization, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, honors servicemen and veterans with a pinning ceremony.
Hospice volunteer Janice Cowen said the students were happy to honor the veterans.
“This was a very nice program and I think the school should be very proud of their students,” she said. “I have to say, the little children were in absolute awe, especially when the color guard marched through. It was wonderful to see.”
The smallest students said they learned all about veterans and sacrifice leading up to Veteran’s Day.
Asia Larko, 6, said she was impressed with the color guardsmen’s guns.
“It was amazing,” she said.
Nick McClure and Alyssa Cevera, both 6, said they know all about veterans.
“They save us,” McClure said. “And they protect us.”