Roger Martin typically gets up at 9 each morning, but not this time. He had a wake-up call he couldn’t miss.
“I got up early this morning so I could be here,” the U.S. Navy veteran said Wednesday at Batavia High School. “I think it’s great they recognize the history of the country and the veterans that serve and protect.”
This was the fifth year of the high school’s effort to recognize local veterans with a special red, white and blue ceremony of all things patriotic, from the Pledge of Allegiance and raising of the U.S. flag to heartening music and words of appreciation.
Martin served in the Navy from 1945-1946. He was a petty officer third-class electronics technician. The 95-year-old Batavia resident took part in the school’s Veterans Day ceremony, one day early to provide veterans with some pomp and circumstance by a concert band, orchestra, and uninformed participants.
A flag-raising ceremony, a musical tribute of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and words to honor military service people filled the air on the front lawn. High School Principal Paul Kesler thanked the many veterans in attendance for their service and dedication to this country.
“Men and women like you have protected all of us,” he said. “And we appreciate you.”
Kesler then highlighted veterans who are also on the BHS staff, and gave them a “small token of our appreciation.”
Christopher Gorton is a high school special education teacher and United States Army veteran who served from 1984 to 1992. He earned Army Achievement and Good Conduct medals, and a German shooting award. New to district staff this year, Gorton carries a Commander in Chief’s “challenge coin” that he was given when his unit was honored with its second presidential unit citation from the First Battalion Sixth Infantry Delta Company.
The United States Air Force veteran John Marat is a high school substitute teacher. He served from 1998 to 2005 and met his wife Elizabeth during active duty. Mr. Marat was discharged in 2005, while his wife continued on with military life for 22 years, eventually relocating to the Western New York area.
Don Hawkins is a retired high school special education teacher who served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to1975. He worked at BHS for 30 years and was a specialist 5 during his military service.
Gregory Ciszak is a high school counselor who served for 12 years with the 152nd Engineer Company in the Army National Guard. A staff sergeant and horizontal construction engineer, Ciszak, and his unit were activated to assist with many state emergencies, including snowstorms, floods, and the 9/11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.
Earth science teacher Christopher Weicher served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991. His service included two combat deployments during Operation Just Cause in Panama and the Gulf War. He received two combat action ribbons, a Presidential Unit Citation and a Meritorious Unit Citation while serving with the Sixth Marine Regiment.
Martin wished more people had attended, as he enjoyed the morning, he said. It’s important to honor veterans while they are still here, he said.
“I’m proud to be an American,” he said. “There are not too many of us left.”
Top Photo: Batavia resident Roger Martin, a U.S. Navy veteran, puts his hand to heart during a ceremony to honor military servicemen and women Wednesday at Batavia High School.
Photos by Howard Owens