Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Nov
  • 14

Veterans welcomed

Posted By November 14, 2013 | 12:40 pm | Lead Story #1

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

LEOMINSTER – Right after the students at St. Leo Elementary School sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me,” Gabriella Malo, an eighth grader, stood at the microphone.
She read from a letter she had written, in appreciation of all the men and women who have served in the military. After reciting a list of reasons why veterans should be honored, she concluded with the words, “If people realized what God wanted for us, we’d be living in a different world today.”
The school’s first public Veterans Day celebration took place a week ago, just before the three-day holiday. It attracted a number of local veterans, some currently on active duty and others who served in the Korean War.
Leominster City Councilor and St. Anna parishioner James Lanciani Jr. normally attends another Veterans Day event. But, last Friday, he was seated in the St. Leo auditorium because this was a new thing students were doing.
He said he received an invitation and decided to accept, so he could let the children know how much he appreciated their efforts.
Mr. Lanciani, who enlisted during the Korean War, was a U.S. Marine stationed in California, and he stayed more than two years at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.
“It’s always inspiring when we see what these young people can do,” Mr. Lanciani said.
The St. Leo auditorium was decorated with hand-written posters and letters thanking the veterans who had defended our country in the past, and who are presently on active duty.
The children filled two bleachers and sang various songs, such “I’m Proud to be American,” and “Let There be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin With Me.”
Several of the older students, including Miss Malo, stood at the microphone and read their personal letters of appreciation to the group of veterans and their families seated on folding chairs.
The school also took the opportunity to acknowledge Leominster resident Larry McNeill, who has taken the initiative to assist St. Leo students in entering their letters to veterans in a statewide competition. Mr. McNeill served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, as well as the Air Force Reserves.
He is also a graduate of St. Bernard Central Catholic High School in Fitchburg.
“It’s a fantastic school, they’re very cooperative,” said Mr. McNeill.
Several other veterans were in attendance, including Anthony Stelluto of Leominster, who was in the Navy during the Korean War. He is a parishioner of St. Leo and decided to attend the celebration after reading about it in the parish bulletin.
His ship traveled to France, Italy, Spain and Portugal and participated in wartime exercises in the Caribbean.