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Veterans Visit Students at Columbus Elementary

MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – Jim Saunders, a fire specialist in the Army Reserve, and former marine and Vietnam veteran Rick Burns spoke with students in Dawn Turco’s fifth grade class at Columbus Elementary School in honor of Veterans Day.

Both men are relatives of students in Turco’s class. Saunders is the father of Shane Saunders and Burns is the grandfather of Katie Burns. On Thursday, the two men were invited to educate the children on the importance of serving your country and honoring those that serve.

“I don’t think anyone wants to fight, but it’s sometimes necessary for the freedoms that we enjoy today,” Saunders said.

After the two men explained why Veterans Day exists, students in the class were able to ask the two veterans questions about the many different aspects of serving in the military and fighting in war. When one student asked ‘what are your feelings on war?’, Burns replied simply.

“War stinks,” Burns said.  “However, you’re helping your country.”

Students also received a brief history lesson when Burns explained his time served in Vietnam and how the country perceived soldiers during the controversial war. Burns entered the Marines when he was 17 and explained to the children that when he came home he was disappointed by the reception he received after coming home from Vietnam.

“We felt blamed,” Burns said. “We never got thanked when we came home,”

Burns also made stops in Okinawa, Korea, and the Dominican Republic.

Saunders served as an Army Reservist from 1987 to 1995 and was responsible for calling in coordinates of missile targets.

Students in the class concluded the visit by thanking the veterans and reading poems dedicated to them that they prepared in Turco’s class.

Eileen Farrell of the Mount Pleasant Central School District contributed to this article.

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