Amara Lee Viccellio, a fourth-grade student at Central Primary School, doesn’t need to open her school books to learn about American history.
She can just talk to her great-grandfather, Thomas A. Wintz, of Dutchtown, for a lesson.
“He was in World War II,” Amara said. “He’s a part of history.”
Wintz, 88, who served in the U.S. Navy for two years as an electrician aboard the USS Leon in the South Pacific, was honored with about 100 other veterans for their military service during a special Veterans Day lunch Nov. 11 at Central Primary School.
The school’s Parent-Teacher Organization covered the $375 cost of providing lunches for the service members.
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” said Wintz, who also dined with great-granddaughter Arayna Wintz, a pre-kindergarten student.
The lunch was a good chance for students to meet real-life superheroes, school officials said, because Central Primary has incorporated a superhero theme in the classroom this academic year.
“The PTO wanted the kids to understand superheroes are not just people who wear capes,” said Lisa May, a Central Primary kindergarten teacher and PTO member. “They’re people who go out and protect us. They make sure our freedom stands.”
Central Primary Principal Christina Knight said the students created posters and wrote thank-you notes to the service members attending the Veterans Day lunch.
The veterans were also presented with a certificate of thanks and a lapel flag pin, Knight said.
“Some students don’t ever have the opportunity to meet veterans,” said Knight. “We feel like this is a good time to truly understand what these people have done for our country.”
Veterans from various military branches were represented at the lunch.
U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Richard Banai joined his daughter, first-grader Elise Banai, in the cafeteria lunch line to pick up some jambalaya.
“When she was real little, I had to deploy,” said Banai, who has served two tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan.
That’s why being home and being able to attend events like the veterans’ lunch are so special, Banai said.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer Teressa Hill served overseas aboard the USS Thomas S. Gates.
Hill, with her fiancé Terrell Stepter, joined Hill’s children, first-grader Cadynce Hill, third-grader Zadyn Hill and fourth-grader Triston Hill for lunch.
Hill said she appreciated the veterans’ lunch because of all the events she had to miss in her children’s lives when she was active duty.
“Now that I have the time, it makes you realize you didn’t do it in vain,” Hill said. “You aren’t looked over.”
Bob Carles, 76, who served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a corporal, dined with his great-grandchildren, Jadyn and Laiten Lessard.
“They asked me, and I try to do as much as I can with them and the grandchildren,” Carles said. “I’m Italian. I’m family-oriented.”
Dr. Augustus A. Hall, Jr., 82, a retired colonel with the U.S. Army Medical Corps served 30 years. He joined granddaughter Vivian “Boo” Hall, a first-grader, for lunch with his wife Becky Hall.
“I was happy,” Dr. Hall said, when he learned of the school hosting the lunch. “I was happy to come.”