St. Peter School celebration honors military veterans

There's a story of St. Martin of Tours, patron of soldiers, in which he tore off half of his cloak to give to a beggar. Later, he had a dream where he met Jesus in heaven, who was wearing part of Martin's torn cloak. "How did you get that?" St. Martin asked.

"You gave it to me when I was cold," Jesus told him.

Msgr. Jack Costello shared that story at an all-school Veterans Day Mass Nov. 11 at St. Peter in Kirkwood. The school also honored more than 60 veterans from the community with a special progam and reception after Mass.

In his homily, Msgr. Costello called forth representatives of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard and Coast Guard, and asked them: "Do you remember giving anything like Martin?" Some of the men quietly shook their heads and said nothing.

"Are you kidding me? You risked your life for us," said Msgr. Costello. "All of you up here, at various times in our nation's conflicts ... you were willing to put your life on the line for us."

The hope of the celebration is to show honor, respect and reverence for all veterans who have served this country, said principal John Freitag. "It's also to teach patriotism to the kids. These kids who live in freedom every night and never worry about their safety get to do so because of our veterans. We want to teach them to be patriotic in a world that's sometimes self-centered and to express gratitude."

While Veterans Day is a time to recognize all members of the military for their service to the United States, Alex Turley, who served with the U.S. Army in Taji and Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004-05, said he especially remembers those who served in the Vietnam and Korean wars.

"It means a lot to me to see all of the Vietnam and Korean war veterans because unfortunately they didn't get that same thanks when they came back home," said Turley, who now serves at a U.S. Army Reserve center in north St. Louis. Turley and his wife, Laura, are expecting their first babies — twin boys — in February.

Thinking about Father Costello's homily, he said, "it made me reflect on my time in Iraq and the different selfless acts that I've seen."

Victor Frome, a decorated U.S. Army major, served in Cu Chi, Vietnam in the 1960s. Frome entered the service in 1962 and served 21 years until his retirement in 1983. When he returned from Vietnam in 1968, the welcome was not warm. "That was a bad time," he said. "That was when all the protesting was going down. Especially when we got off the plane, people were throwing bottles of blood and urine at us. We were told not to wear our uniforms for the simple reason they were afraid we would be killed by the protesters."

Frome said he doesn't consider himself a hero. The real heroes are the troops with whom he served, especially "the troops I lost."

After a later career in information technology, Frome is now enjoying his time as a videographer. In January, he will travel to Vietnam with his youngest son. It will be the first time he's been to Vietnam since he was there in the 1960s. He plans to see the Cu Chi tunnels, the underground tunnel system that Viet Cong soldiers used as a hiding spot.

Gerard Blais' military career began when he signed up for the U.S. National Guard when he was in high school. In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, was trained as an aviator, and later was commissioned with the U.S. Marines. The 95-year old served in the Pacific during World War II.

When he enrolled as a high schooler, he entered his age as three years older than he really was, in order to qualify. His mother, of course, was livid, he recalled with a chuckle. "She turned purple and said, 'Your father and I weren't married yet!'"

"I was scared a couple of times," he said of his military service. "All I did was what I was told to do." 

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)