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11-08-08, 10:45 AM
Pupils exchange letters to Marines for helicopter visit

Published:Saturday, November 8, 2008

By Denise Dick

The Poland visit was part of an early Veterans Day event.

POLAND — North Elementary School pupils chanted “U-S-A, U-S-A,” waving red, white and blue banners as the chopping sound of the U.S. Marine Cobra helicopter drew near.

When the gunship landed on the lawn behind the school, two Marines from Johnstown, Pa., emerged to cheers and applause.

Pupils Gia Gray, 9; Gregory Romito, 7; Kalysta Zembower, 6; Daniel Klase, 10; and Ryan Casey, 6, presented them with a box of letters written by the pupils to the Marines.

“I thanked them for what they do for us,” said Daniel, a fourth-grader.

Gia, Gregory, Kalysta and Ryan couldn’t remember what they wrote in their letters but they enjoyed the helicopter’s visit.

“It was kind of cool,” Kalysta, a first-grader, said.

This marks the third year Marines from Johnstown have flown their helicopter and landed at the school as an early Veterans Day observance, said Principal Michael Masucci. Tuesday is Veterans Day.

“It never gets old,” he said.

Masucci coordinated the visit through Poland resident Lt. Col. Brian Kennedy the first year and continued it.

“We appreciate your writing letters to the Marines and sailors under our command,” Maj. Mark Voelker, a Zelienople, Pa., native, told the 235 children on the grass. “We’ll make sure they get them before they leave for the weekend.”

The major explained the genesis of Veterans Day, which began to commemorate the end of World War I.

Each pupil got to peek inside the AH-I W Cobra helicopter before returning to class.

There were lots of buttons inside, said kindergartner Ragan Miller, 6.

Aidan Stec, 5, and also in kindergarten, thought it was cool.

“There were lots of buttons and lots of gadgets,” he said.

While his class didn’t write letters to the Marines, they drew a picture and colored the envelopes, Aidan said.