Tonawanda News

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November 8, 2013

Saluting those among us


Tonawanda News — The day’s guest speaker was Brian Castner of Grand Island, an Iraq War veteran who is the author of “The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows.”

Castner told the students about being a bomb technician during the conflict, but focused Thursday on a previous war, pointing out the red poppy on his lapel, explaining what it means and reciting the first lines of “In Flanders Field.”

“What can we do for those men and women? The only thing we can really do is remember,” he told them. “Study hard in school, pay attention in history class, in social studies. ... Make sure you study so you understand what their sacrifices were, and then you can really have gratitude for that.” 

Students Jack Gembala and Richard Konopczynski, both seventh-graders, both clad in their tan Boy Scout uniforms, served as part of the honor guard that escorted the American flag into the church. Both also had fathers honored that day: Gembala’s father, Peter Gembala, served in the Army, and Konopczynski’s father serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

“They deserve this honor for their service to their country, (for what they’ve done) to protect a safe life for us,” Konopczynski said.

Maj. Richard Konopczynski III said he found himself tearing up a little during the musical performance.

“I think it was really heartwarming,” he said. “It’s a great honor, and I think it’s great the teachers do this every year.”

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