Bluffton Elementary Embodies the Spirit of Veterans Day

   Bluffton Elementary honored Veterans Day in several ways on Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11.
   The fourth graders have been treated for many years to a flag lesson from Thom and Cheryl Craig and Larry Core. Thom Craig and Core are veterans, and Cheryl, a retired teacher, assists with the lesson on folding a flag by explaining the meaning of each fold. The students are then given small flags to practice on themselves.
   In kindergarten, Kim Fritsch’s and Heidi Steiner’s classes met Lieutenant Aaron Antrim. Antrim currently flies a helicopter for Life Flight for St. Vincent’s Hospital in Toledo. He and his family have lived in California, Michigan and Florida, but now they live outside of Bluffton.
   Antrim retired from the military just last year. He spent 10 years in the Marines in HMM 161 and seven years in the Coast Guard with Hitron in Jacksonville, Florida.
   His talk was perfectly geared for a kindergarten class. He had hats with him that he had to wear for different uniforms, including his helicopter pilot helmet, his hat to wear with a dress uniform and his Coast Guard hat. He also taught the students how to stand at attention and how to salute.
   Most important for him was that the students understand the legacy he was carrying on: his great-grandfather was in World War I, his grandfather was in World War II where he flew  a P-47 and an uncle was in Vietnam. He had framed photos of these men with him, along with a purple heart signed by Woodrow Wilson that was awarded to his grandfather for being wounded. Tucked in his pocket in a plastic bag, he carries the cross that his grandfather always wore around his neck. Antrim told the students, “When things would get really scary, he would put this in his mouth.” The cross bore many tooth indentations.
   Using a map, he then showed the students how he got from San Diego, California, to Iraq by ship. The ship took the Pacific route, passing Hawaii, Australia and India before reaching Kuwait. At that point, the men boarded the 20 helicopters that the ship carried and flew to Iraq. Besides the 20 helicopters, the ship carried 1000 people.
   His job as a helicopter pilot was to fly with medical people to pick up wounded soldiers and take them to safety.
   Now, he flies medical people at 160 miles per hour to accidents or to homes and hospitals where sick patients need to get to a hospital or another hospital quickly. He says that he often lands on roads after auto accidents or in people’s yards.
   Before moving on, he encouraged the students to approach military people and say, “Thank you for your service.”
   Amber Huffman’s first grade class at Bluffton Elementary School was visited earlier this month by relatives of two of her students who are being deployed: Darren Sommers, a cousin to Lane Ginther, and Michael Bible, father of Landin Bible.
   Sarah Brauen, mother to Owen in the class, suggested that the class put together a care package for each of the men to be mailed on Nov. 11. Brauen provided a list of items for students to collect that the men could then share with members of their units.
Huffman had the students write thank you notes to the men for their service. The following are a few of those letters:

Dear Michael,
You have made a very hard choice. You must be brave. You keep us safe. You are trying your best. P.S. Your son misses you very much. Love, Alexis

Dear Darren,
Thank you Darren for making hard choices. I pray you will be doing well in the Marines. Elizabeth

Dear Darren,
Thank you for keeping us safe. And thank you for leaving your house. And thank you for fighting for us. And thank you for everything that you do for us.  Lainy

Dear Michael,
Thank you for protecting us. Thank you for trying your best. Natalie