Change to Conant calendar provides real opportunity to honor Veterans
With classes in session this Veterans Day, Conant opened its doors to over a dozen former and current soldiers, who were honored at a special breakfast and in a school-wide assembly on Tuesday.
The breakfast began shortly before school with the presentation of the American and Illinois flags by the Hoffman Estates Police Department Color Guard, and those in attendance said the Pledge of Allegiance once the flags were in place. Social studies teacher Frank Kernats began speaking as the audience ate breakfast provided by Cougar Perk. He explained how the veterans deserved the utmost respect and the teachers needed to ensure their students gave them such.
Many teachers were surprised that the students were as respectful as they were during the assembly. “I’ve been here for a while and I have to say it was one of the proudest moments I’ve had as a teacher at Conant,” said social studies teacher John Braglia, who spoke after Kernats at the breakfast and was one of the faculty members who helped set up the Veterans Day events. “The students demonstrated unbelievable reverence and concern for the veterans and the ceremony,” he continued.
Speakers at the assembly included Counselor Scott Altergott and Principal Julie Nowak. Members of the Conant orchestra and band performed during the event, playing patriotic songs as veterans rose to the themes of their respective military branches, while students rose to pay tribute to their family members who had served in those branches, as well.
“Regardless of where and how they served,” Altergott announced during the event, “they all have one thing in common: the tradition which we honor today.”
The Color Guard also provided the flags for the whole-school ceremony, which ended with a slideshow of former Conant students and family members of the staff who had served or were currently serving in the military.
One such person is John Montmarquette, who retired from Conant about three years ago. He described his eight-week boot camp experience as ‘boring’. There wasn’t any talking, and the same marching and calisthenics were performed each day. The first casualty he ever saw during his tenure with the Marine Corps was his own squad leader, who was shot through the heart in the middle of a firefight.
“It’s not like the games you see or play on your Xbox. It’s brutal and it’s real life,” Montmarquette stated.
But these former soldiers are appreciative of the gratitude they receive. “I think it’s nice that they’re honoring the veterans,” stated Alexander Brenke, who was an Army medic in the 1960s. His grandson, Alexander Brenke III, is a freshman at Conant.
Younger servicemen agreed with the elder Brenke, such as 18-year-old Army Private Jakub Burzynski, who said,”It’s really cool that Conant students get the opportunity to thank their veterans.” Burzynski is still a senior at Conant, but has completed special Split Ops courses that allow him to begin training before he graduates.
In order to be able to hold such ceremonies, a non-attendance day had to be added to the Thanksgiving break.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Braglia said. “Nobody gets awareness when they’re sitting at home.” Braglia mentioned how Veterans Day ceremonies are now going to become a tradition at Conant. He also emphasized that students need to recognize and appreciate what soldiers have done for their country.
Nowak emphasized the same thing in her speech during the assembly: “The most important part of this holiday…is to say thank you.”