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Event allows 200 Auburn students to ‘Meet our Troops’

Furthering military appreciation goal of celebration, colonel says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local students got a chance to learn about and thank military representatives just in time for Memorial Day. St. Joseph’s Catholic School hosted a Meet our Troops! event Friday with four military units in attendance from three branches including the California Army National Guard, Marine Corps and Navy. About 220 students attended the event and got to explore an Army Black Hawk helicopter after it landed on the school’s field amidst excited cries from preschoolers, eighth-graders and all students in between. Students also got to go inside a Marine Corps armored vehicle and an Army cargo Humvee. Fifth-grader Matthew Corkery, 11, said his favorite was the helicopter because it was big. Matthew said he was enjoying the day. “It’s cool, because we get to go inside and stuff,” he said. “I like it because they serve our country.” Fifth-grader Alexa Lanterman, 10, said she liked talking to the military representatives because they had served for a long time and they knew a lot about the vehicles they brought. “I think it’s pretty exciting, because they didn’t tell us until the day before,” Alexa said. “So, it’s pretty surprising and (I like) how they have a giant helicopter.” Col. Robert Marchi, of the Army Reserves, has a kindergartner at the school and said his sons understand the importance of days like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. He wanted to coordinate the event to pass that on to other students. “Memorial Day is about remembering all the service men and women that were killed, and that freedom isn’t free,” Marchi said. “There is a sacrifice for it. It’s about remembering those people that did that.” Marchi said he hoped the day would help the students further appreciate those in the military, even if they didn’t want to go into the military themselves. Sister Anne Marie Miller, principal of St. Joseph’s School, said there were several important reasons to bring the event to the school. “We want to recognize, and honor and celebrate our country,” Miller said. “And especially the men and women who are serving. And to remember all the men and women who went before us and are responsible for the freedom of more countries than just ours.” Miller said the event furthers the mission of the school itself. “Part of our values here in Catholic schools has been to instill a sense of service in our students so they go out after they leave here to serve others,” she said. “It’s just a nice opportunity for us to be able to express our faith and do a little blessing over our troops that God will protect them always.” Sgt. Eric Schmidt, with the California Army National Guard Charlie Company 1-168 GSAB Unit based out of Mather, said events such as this can sometimes help students choose a positive path over a negative one. “I know when I was in grade school and they would bring the helicopters out, it gave me something to look forward to and guide me in a certain direction,” Schmidt said. “I have two kids, so I want them to go in the right direction, too.” Third-grader Alex Yanni, 9, said the event was a lot of fun and he enjoyed meeting the servicemen and women. “I think it’s exciting that I get to go in these armored vehicles,” Alex said. “I think it’s a real honor (to meet them) because it’s the first time I’ve ever gotten to talk to these people.” Spc. Manuel Lavalle, with the Army National Guard Charlie Company 1-184 Unit stationed on High Street in Auburn, was showing students a cargo Humvee used in California for flood, fire and earthquake relief. Lavalle said he thought the event was important because it educated students about different branches of the military. “I think it is important for them to get an outside perspective,” he said. “I think the military shows the United States as a whole since a lot of us have been a lot of different places.” Ramon Largaespada, who has a third-grade son at St. Joseph’s, said organizers hope to expand the event to include more schools and more of the community in the future. Alicia Largaespada said she thought the event was great. “I love it,” Alicia Largaespada said. “It’s really good for the kids to get knowledge about our country’s military and be supportive of our country.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com