Modesto area schools salute veterans

naustin@modbee.comNovember 8, 2013 

    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin

— Many schools celebrated Veterans Day early, using the theme of Monday’s holiday to talk about history, patriotism and service.

Among those in Modesto, Lakewood Elementary students recited the Constitution Preamble, sang the national anthem and recited patriotic poems to gathered veterans. Gregori High held its annual Veterans Day ceremony, inviting all vets in the community to take a bow and enjoy student presentations and a musical performance.

For St. Stanislaus Catholic School, however, Friday’s tribute held very special meaning, with rededication of the campus flagpole, a new flag presented by a contingent of Marines and a flyover.

Eighth-grader Allie Anderson’s brother was the first soldier from Stanislaus County to die in the Iraq War, in 2004. She was only a youngster at St. Stanislaus, she said, watching back then as the school’s flagpole was dedicated to his memory. Nine years later, the bronze plaque was too worn to be read. Allie and dad Michael Anderson decided to get a new one.

The idea grew from there, said Principal Russ Antracoli between organizing veterans groups, Marines in dress blues and school priest Sam West for the event, timing everything for an 8:27 a.m. flyover.

The T-34 buzzed in wide, white-trailing circles overhead on cue, piloted by former Marine aviator Vince Nastro, Allie said. She added that Nastro’s son flies combat jets for the Navy with a picture of Cpl. Michael Anderson Jr. in his cockpit. “It keeps Mike in the fight,” Allie said.

Allie helped unveil a new, stainless-steel plaque to her brother on the school flagpole. To commemorate the day, Marines raised a new flag, one that flew over the Pentagon on Sept. 11 of this year. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, arranged for the flag, which will be kept in a glass case. Marines and veterans on hand for the ceremony, seeing the weathered and worn condition of the school’s everyday outdoor flag, pledged to replace it, Antracoli said.

In a moving moment, a Marine bugler played taps for Cpl. Anderson and all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Gathered veterans stood to tell of their years of service and which wars they fought.

“There are people like our veterans and the Marines here, making what we do, our lives, free. They’re the ones who make it safe for us,” Antracoli told the assembled students. He urged them to take a moment Monday to say a prayer or go to a parade.

At Gregori High, students recorded the event for JagNewsNet and tweeted posts, said Principal Jeff Albritton. “It was evident in my eyes that the school community of Gregori is in awe of the service of our veterans and this was their way to say thank you,” he said.

Teacher Ana York and student Pedro Sepulveda organized the programs, with poems, songs, and dances presented for veterans.

The Lakewood Elementary School event included veterans telling their stories, said Kayte Ruggieri-Vesey, student council adviser and program coordinator. “The event was very special to both the students and veterans. The gratitude was mutual,” she said. “It was a great coming together of generations.”

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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