New London students up close and personal with veterans
New London — Students’ hands shot into the air in unison when the question-and-answer portion of Thursday’s veteran outreach program at Harbor Elementary School began.
In Brittany Forino’s fourth-grade class, the questions came fast and furious for Army veteran Veto Frosolone and Blaze Estrada, a member of the Connecticut Army National Guard.
A similar scene played out in adjoining fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms
“Have you ever been inside a submarine?” one student asked. “A tank?”
“How many people are in the Army?” another queried. “What was your job?”
Ashton Jordan, 9, was curious about any experiences the veterans might have had with missiles and spy satellites. Both Jordan and fellow fourth-grader Jaiyana Cluff left the class inspired to ask more questions of relatives who are veterans, a bit more curious about their service than when they started the day.
Estrada and Frosolone were among six veterans to visit Harbor as part of Take a Veteran to School Day, an initiative from the History Channel that brings in veterans to discuss their military service in schools nationwide in the weeks surrounding Veterans Day.
The vets did their best to answer all the questions. Army veteran Nick Nebelski, whose father served in the Army and grandfather was a tank commander who served three tours in Vietnam, told students it was a tough job but rewarding and a chance to serve the country and be part of a team.
The Take a Veteran to School Day initiative helps young students to appreciate the service of the veterans and is a way to connect veterans’ experiences with history, said Jim Babchak, a spokesman with A+E networks. Veterans have visited dozens of schools across the country as part of the program over the past week.
The program locally was made possible by a partnership with Comcast. All the veterans at Thursday’s event are Comcast employees from Connecticut and part of a veterans’ employees network involved in other community outreach events.
The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut last week presented Comcast with the 2018 Military Community Support Award, given annually to a business that has gone above and beyond to show support for the region’s men and women in uniform.
Comcast NBCUniversal celebrates Veterans and Military Families Month in November and recently announced the goal of hiring 11,000 veterans, military spouses and National Guard or Reserve members by 2021, bringing the total number of military-related employees to 21,000.
The veterans at Thursday’s event were welcomed with cheers and a line to receive high-fives.
Harbor School Principal Jason Foster said students discussed and engaged in veteran-related activities in anticipation of the event, including what it means to be a veteran. He said it was part of a larger effort to offer students and staff valuable experiences, “where diversity is celebrated as a strength and collaboration, leadership and relationships are valued as essential to all we do.”