Every heart beat true for the red, white and blue at Mariners Christian School last Friday for the special “Salute to Veterans” event in honor of Veterans Day.
It was a day filled with gratitude, faith, patriotism, respect, honor, applause, tears and more gratitude.
More than 300 Mariners Christian School grandparents and veterans began the day by sharing breakfast and stories of their experiences and years in service to our country. There were more than 150 veterans, from every branch of the service, from before 1950 to the present.
“We’re one of the few schools who give Veterans Day high profile,” explained Carolyn Johnson, MCS development specialist. “We want our students to understand what sacrifice and service really means, what our veterans fought for, and that freedom isn’t free. It’s not just to be a day off to go to Disneyland. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our veterans to introduce themselves and be recognized for their individual service. “Unfortunately their ranks are thinning out and many Vietnam Veterans didn’t receive the recognition and thanks they deserve.”
After breakfast, which was hosted by Rancho Mission Viejo, guests joined the student body in the gymnasium for the program. The program included recognition of veterans, Posting the Colors, prayer, patriotic songs, students sharing, an esteemed guest speaker, and a special award and presentation.
Sue Celek, family and student care director, welcomed the eager audience and explained that the event was a favorite at the school, with the goal of honoring the veterans, as well as teaching the children patriotism and respectful behavior. The students learned well; the packed room hung on every word and joined in on every song.
MCS students, ranging from 5 years old to alumni, played an important part in making the day memorable and meaningful. Alumni and current UCLA student Jeffey Fichtner sang an inspirational “Star Spangled Banner,” and 8th graders shared highlights via iMovie about their recent Washington DC trip.
The guest speaker was Sgt. Maj. Mike Mervosh. “Iron Mike” Mervosh has the distinction of being a U.S. Marine since 1942. He saw combat on Iwo Jima in World War ll, in Korea, and in Vietnam. He was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for heroism. As a sergeant major, he was the most senior enlisted man of all the Armed Forces when he retired in1977 at Pearl Harbor after 35 years of faithful service.
Todd Perkins, MCS’s chief financial officer, interviewed Mervosh by guiding him through pivotal points from his decades of service to our country.
“I’m proud of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart – well, you have to get hit for that,” Mervosh said. “The message I want to give to today’s generation is to respect and remember us old fellows, remember what this country stands for, and what we all fought for – for this country. I hate it when people call me a hero; the heroes are the ones who never came back.”
“Our ranks are fading away; hopefully our present and future generations will be the most thankful generation, that’s what I pray for,” Mike added. “I thank God I could serve and I would do it again.”
Todd thanked Mike and all those who sacrificed.
“We honor the men and women who answer the call to serve,” Todd said.
A new addition to the program was the inaugural Dr. Ben Friedman Leadership Award. Friedman, a Navy veteran, was a long-time supporter of the school and attended every Veterans Day celebration. Unfortunately, Friedman passed away recently, but was honored with the award that was given in his name to four MCS alumni, who all graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Family members of naval officers Dane Robie, Kyle McGhie, and Jon Weissberg accepted on their behalf, and naval officer Austin Fleming was on-site to receive the award.
The Ben Friedman Leadership Award carries with it a $5,000 prize to be given to a charity of choice, and The Fisher House in San Diego was chosen. The Fisher House is a national foundation similar to the Ronald McDonald House for military families. It assists families in need, providing a place to stay while loved ones in the military are in the hospital.
A short video about the Fisher House pointed out that not all battles are fought on the battlefield, and that those who sacrificed so much for this nation shouldn’t have to sacrifice further when they return home.
MCS middle school did their part and raised $2,382 at a recent pancake breakfast, bringing the total gift presented to the Fisher House to $7,382.00.
The audience stood to sing “God Bless America” at the end. There wasn’t a dry eye.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].