Brandywine Heights thanks veterans, awards Patriot Award to William Gehman

Patriot photo by Lisa Mitchell Brandywine Heights School District's Veteran's Day program honors veterans.

Brandywine Heights students thanked veterans in song, poems, posters and music during the 14th annual Veteran’s Day Assembly Nov. 11.

The Brandywine Heights High School Fife and Drum Corps. opened the program with an Assembly Call and Salute to the Colors, as well as Taps.

“Today is Veteran’s Day, a time for Americans to pause and think about the liberties that we enjoy and thank a veteran,” said Master of Ceremonies Thomas Whalen, Brandywine teacher and veteran. “If not for those men and women willing to put their lives on the line, this country would not be what it is today, a land of freedom and opportunity. Veterans, thank you for joining us today.”

“I truly appreciate your service,” said T.J. Huckleberry, legislative assistant to Sen. Judy Schwank.

On behalf of Schwank, Huckleberry presented the Brandywine Heights School District Patriot Award, which honors a Brandywine graduate and veteran, to William Gehman.

After graduating in 1965, Huckleberry said Gehman was drafted in the Army a year later and served as a radio relay and carrier attendant in Germany. After 18 months, he was discharged from active service with the rank of sergeant. Upon returning home, he joined the American Legion in Topton and has been a member since. After retirement, he joined the Honor Guard. He is currently senior vice commander.

Gehman worked in maintenance and as a back up operator for the sewer plant for the Borough of Topton for 23 years. He officially retired in 2010.

Gehman has served on Topton Borough Council for three consecutive terms.

A crowd of veterans sat in the Brandywine Heights Middle School auditorium, nearly filling up the entire center seating area. On either side were students.

“When you get to share a day with so many wonderful people such as our veterans I’m speechless,” said Brandywine Heights Middle School Principal Dr. Kathy Johnson. “We’re so glad to have you here.”

Johnson quoted her grandmother’s advice to always find time to thank the people who make a difference in our lives.

“The students and staff at Brandywine Middle School have been preparing for weeks to make this day their special day to each of you to say thank you for clearly making a difference in all of our lives,” said Johnson.

The program included the 7th and 8th Grade Band performing “The Thunderer” by John Philip Sousa; 8th graders Kasey Hobert, Johanna Fink and Ethan Rothermel reading the poem “Free in the USA” by Joanna Fuchs; BHMS Select Chorus singing “Armed Forces- The Pride of America;” readings by essay contest winners; the 6th, 7th and 8th Grade Chorus singing “America; The Spirit Lives On!” and 8th grader Alayna Biltcliff reading her poem “The Flag,” as well as Brandywine teacher Mrs. Tucker singing her gratitude to the veterans.

“Preparations are truly a labor of love fueled by our sincere hope that... you have truly felt our collective gratitude, appreciation and heartfelt thanks for each of you, for being who you are, a person who has earned the title of veteran, no truer calling in life, and made a huge difference in not only our lives but in the way we are able to live our lives,” said Johnson.

One of the veterans who felt their gratitude was veteran Donald Young, 86, of Allentown, grandfather of a Brandywine student. Young served in the Army, 88th Division, in Italy during WWII.

“I walked down the hall and the children all saying, ‘Thank you, thank you’ is a great thing,” said Young.

When asked how coming to the program makes him feel, he said, “I feel like I’m 21 again.”

Young said he really enjoyed and appreciated the program and the performance by the students.

“It’s really a great thing,” said Young.

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