The Veteran’s Day banquet at Kennett Square’s American Legion on Saturday night was an impressive show of patriotism and joy.
More than 150 people, most of them veterans and their families, joined for fellowship and to honor their peers who had done something special.
We were especially impressed that the team which oversaw the selection of the honors chose to give retired Unionville School District elementary teacher Don Silknitter the Patriotism Award.
It was even more impressive that a man who had never served in the military had earned the respect of those who had actually been to war.
This is what he did:
About 15 years ago, he asked his fifth graders if they knew any veterans or if they even knew what a veteran was.
He reported that the response was weak if at all.
So he assigned them to go out and get the answer.
That was followed by a ceremony in the school in which children brought in relatives to be honored who had served in the armed forces.
That ceremony became a tradition Unionville has held onto, even after Mr. Silknitter’s retirement.
Each year, the school has an assembly on Veteran’s Day to show the students what their elders in arms have done for them.
Mr. Silknitter got choked up as he received his plaque at the banquet -- as well he should have.
Standing there among men who had been through the trenches, endured the weather and recovered from gunshot wounds, he was humbled that he was the object of their applause.
There was another point that was made as those who honored him recited his accomplishments. They said there is a military marker at Unionville Elementary School which Mr. Silknitter attends to, even in his retirement.
Congratulations to this patriot.
There were other things that came out at that banquet, as well.
One was a notable lack of complaining on the part of veterans about what they went through. These were people who were very old and could have easily complained about the conditions of war they endured, but they did not.
Instead, they talked about freedom in the United States and the price that needs to be paid to preserve it.
There was a woman, PFC Rose Lowery, who was a member of the U.S. Marines in 1943. She said she left her home in New York state to become a clerk-typist for the Marines in California. She said she was scared when she first arrived for service because she had never been away from home, but she got over it.
At 90 years old, she’s back East and living at Brandywine Assisted Living in Kennett Township.
When it was announced that all the Marines in the audience should stand up, Ms. Lowery was assisted out of her chair, still holding onto her walker. But she stood straight a saluted just for a moment, perhaps lifted by pride in her service long ago.
There was also a special award for public service given to U.S. Army veteran Bill Taylor, who had organized the banquet. He got his trophy not for his military service, but for the amazing Memorial Day parades he has been putting together for the past few years.
This man is driven to give back to his community big time, to the point of beginning the planning for next year’s parade the minute the last one is over.
The presenter of the award, Marine and Kennett Square native John DeMatteo, said his phone is constantly ringing with Taylor asking if they can contact yet another tank or Army jeep.
With these military men and women, there appeared to be some strength, some appreciation and some enduring energy that made them want to keep giving for their country.
Their service was certainly not a bed of roses, and yet, perhaps it made them stronger.
Their lessons are those that Mr. Silknitter’s students should and perhaps have learned.
Congratulations to all.