ATHENS BOROUGH — Around 25 million U.S. military veterans are living today, according to retired U.S. Marine Corps captain and long-time Athens social studies teacher Dr. Frank Kozlowski. And although their experiences while in uniform may have varied greatly, their service all began the same way — with an oath.
“With that oath they implicitly have said, ‘If it comes to it, I will give my life,’” said Kozlowski.
During a Veterans Day assembly Friday, signaling the start of a new tradition of honor and remembrance at the Athens Area High School, Kozlowski asked the students to keep one thing in mind as they listened to him and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. George Crowell that morning: “What are you willing to die for?”
Kozlowski said that question and the sacrifice veterans are willing to make for their country is the foundation to character traits such as honor, selflessness, and bravery.
“Whenever you see a veteran, think about these values that I talk about, that these people have a sense of honor, that love of country,” he stressed to the students.
A few student hands raised when asked if their parents were veterans, or who planned to pursue the military after high school. When asked how many know a veteran, nearly every hand shot up.
As Crowell spoke to the students, he emphasized the connections that everyone has with veterans and how all who serve, whether they are on the front lines or cleaning the mess hall, all play a role in America’s defense.
“Wherever you go, whatever you do, you have people just like yourself that are all serving and doing things like this,” said Crowell, who also encouraged students to visit the Bradford County Veterans Memorial Park in Towanda Borough and check out the many bricks laid honor or memory of county residents who have served.
“If you have the opportunity you should go see them,” said Crowell. “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would see so many veterans until we started seeing things like the bricks and all of the people who go their to pay their respects.”
During his opening remarks, high school Principal Corey Mosher reflected on the stories heard from his grandfather, who served in the U.S. Navy on board the USS Alaska during World War II.
Mosher said he might have not appreciated those stories from his “poppy” during his younger years, but now holds on to all of that wisdom to this day.
“They are truly memories that I will always hold onto for the rest of my life,” Mosher said.
“Enjoy them, hold on to them, listen, and soak up all of that information. And, most importantly, spend as much time with them as you can,” he added. “The knowledge and wisdom you can gain from them is indestructible. I am very thankful for all of our veterans and hope that all of you understand the importance of what they have done for our country.”
This includes allowing these students and those throughout the community to enjoy the lives they have today.
Friday’s assembly also featured a performance of the National Anthem by the school’s Reflections choir, a performance from the marching band’s color guard to “An America Medley” by Anthem Lights, a flag folding demonstration, and a breakfast for veterans after.
“Honor American veterans for their dedication to our country, especially those who gave their lives and those who have sustained life-long disabilities for our sake — physical and psychological, as in PTSD,” said Kozlowski. “ … It’s truly they who have made our nation the home of the brave.”