Sunday, November 25, 2012

Students Help Legion Provide Food for Vets

honor students
UTICA -- Thanks to a food drive by the National Honor Society at John F. Kennedy Middle School, the American Legion's Utica Post 229 donated 14 boxes of non-perishable food to the Central New York Veterans Outreach Center in Utica on Nov. 16.

 "The students wanted to help veterans, and we know the Outreach Center works directly with homeless and jobless veterans," noted Utica Post 229 Vice Commander Jim George, who is coordinating a Legion food drive for both the Outreach Center and the Community Food Bank.

Utica honor students with food they collected.
The 8th Grade honor students presented the food to the American Legion Nov. 13 after two Legionnaires spoke to them about their combat experiences in World War II.

Honor Society Advisor Linda Young said the students "collected 380 items of food," and referred to the World War II veterans as heroes.

 "Food donations to our pantry are always appreciated," noted Center Project Director Teresa Favo-Schram, "but to have such a large donation from a local school in honor of the veterans in this community one week before Thanksgiving will really give us the boost we need right now." 

Legionnaire Phil Capraro chats with students.
DURING THE veterans' talk at the school, one student asked them: "Were you scared?"

"Oh, God, yes," Phil Capraro replied. "I was scared all the way" -- from Omaha Beach on D-Day, where he was shot in the leg, to the Siegfried Line, where he was bayoneted in the shoulder in hand-to-hand combat with German soldiers, to the Battle of the Bulge, where he was literally blown out of his machine gun placement.

"If any soldier tells you he wasn't scared, something's wrong with him." He showed the Honor Society students the three Purple Hearts he received, along with various other decorations, including two Bronze Stars for heroic action.

"We got those for capturing Germans."

Capraro, who fought with the 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division, was invited to speak to the Honor Society, along with Navy Veteran Frank Zammiello, who described the nightmare of trying to shoot down a seemingly unending stream of kamikaze aircraft bent on destroying the light cruiser he was serving on.

 Even though he joined the army at the age of 18 and didn't finish high school, Capraro told the students: "Your education is one of the most important things you can do in the world. It's up to you to be your own person… to make your own way in the world… As a favor to yourselves, learn as much as you can."

Capraro, who said he is "pushing 88," also showed a picture of himself in his army uniform. "This is me at 18 years old. Do I look the same?"

 "Yeah, you do!" one girl shouted.

food crew at veterans center
 Utica Post 229 Vice Commander Jim George (left) delivered 14  boxes of food donated by JFK Middle School students to the Veterans Outreach Center in Utica. Those who helped unload the food into the center's pantry were, from left, center volunteers Henry Brown and Ronnie Willis, and center staffers Zlatko Musedinovic and Teresa Favo-Schram.