As a tradition for many years, Western Wayne administration, faculty, staff, and students joined together on Thursday, November 9 to celebrate veterans in the community with a special in-school event that featured music from the high school band and chorus, wise words from a veteran guest speaker, and this year the event had the added component of a special presentation of a high school diploma to a former student that was 50 years in the making.
Mr. Harry Howard Howell, a Navy Seaman from 1964 through 1971, attended the Lake Consolidated School before enlisting. He would have received his diploma in 1966 but life had other plans. Howell went on to earn his GED at sea in 1967.
He grew up in Wayne County and returned to the area after his time in the military. He was honorably discharged in 1971 and returned to the area during a time when Lake, Hamlin, and Waymart were in the process of consolidating to Western Wayne.
He and his wife Jean raised a family in the Western Wayne School District. The couple has three children Bonnie Howell, Jamie Howell, and the late John Howell.
Howell explained how he enjoyed sending his children to Western Wayne. He served as a member of the Western Wayne School Board from1989-1997. During his tenure, he held the offices of vice president and treasurer. Howell is an active member of the community. Along with serving on the board, he is a Mason and a huge supporter and friend to the Western Wayne community.
“Anything the district needs- he is there to help and provide,” Ms. Ellen Faliskie, assistant superintendent, said. “His contributions are endless.”
Howell felt thrilled to return to Western Wayne for the special Veterans Day event in which he would receive his diploma.
“I enjoy coming and doing whatever I can for students,” Howell said. “It’s so nice to see good kids,” Howell explained, as he watched Western Wayne Middle school students serve veterans coffee and other refreshments before the event.
One such student serving Howell and the others was Gracie Clark, eighth grader.
“I like to honor them because they protected our country,” Gracie said. “It’s so exciting to greet all of the veterans and to hear about how they served us.”
Fellow student helper Tarena Strasburger feels the same.
“We get to make them feel comfortable here,” Tarena explained. “It’s so fun to see all of them come here and I enjoy getting to help them knowing how much they helped us.”
Howell hopes that students like Gracie and Tarena feel inspired from meeting the veterans and experiencing the Veterans Day program.
“I want the students to know that they need to stay in school and graduate,” Howell said. “I think the service is a great avenue to look at for their education in the future. I know joining the military was good for me in so many ways.”
Howell explained how he came from a family that didn’t have a lot of money and that he looked to the military as a way to better himself.
He credits the military with helping him find a successful path for his life which eventually led him back to the area to raise his family.
Howell hopes that this generation of Western Wayne students take advantage of the great opportunities at the district to help them in their lives.
“Western Wayne teachers are 100 percent behind the kids in getting them a good education,” Howell said. “The teachers here have a big impact on students.”
Howell felt glad to get to experience the Veterans Day Assembly alongside other veterans and Western Wayne teachers.
One such Western Wayne staff member and veteran who served as the main speaker at the event was Mr. Robert Black, athletic director.
Black like Howell believes that students have a lot to gain from their experience in middle and high school. He explained that he was born and raised in Wayne County and attended school at Western Wayne where he was involved in a variety of activities such as athletics, band, drama, and the school paper before he enlisted with the Marine Corps.
“Become a part of this community,” Black told students. “You will gain great experience from it.”
Black explained that his time both inside and outside of the classroom better prepared him for life experiences later in boot camp and beyond.
“Change is a part of life,” Black explained. “But if you prepare now you’ll be ready for whatever happens”
Black further discussed that he learned a lot in his time in the Marine Corps about not fearing failure and seeking self- improvement. He asked the students to think about these values now and to always honor veterans in their daily lives.
“For me, if you want to honor the veterans and honor this country you need to value the things this country provides like tolerance. Live the life that America provides and you will honor all veterans,” Black said.
Those in attendance at the Western Wayne Veterans Day program were also treated to patriotic musical selections from the high school band and chorus along with a video presentation about the history of Veterans Day put together by Western Wayne history teacher and Iraq war veteran Shane Grodack.
All present enjoyed the special day for veterans at Western Wayne. Howell was very pleased after receiving his diploma from Faliskie, Mrs. Bernice Fiorella, school board president, and Mr. Bill Gershey, school board member. Howell hopes some students in attendance feel the same calling he did to join the military and serve this great nation.
“There’s nothing better than going into the service,” Howell said.