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Veterans Honored by Lawrence Pupils

Students salute 120 at middle school's annual Veterans Day luncheon in Chatsworth.

World War I, known at the time as "The Great War," ended in 1918 with an armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

And that date, November 11, has become Veterans Day, to honor all those who have served.

Leo Keligian, 85, is one of them. He was among 120 veterans honored Friday by the students at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth.

He served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, he said.

“I come [to this event] to represent the rest of the veterans,” said Keligian who has 40 medals and was wounded two times once on his index finger and once hear his eye.

Keligian said he received the Maritime Service Award also and served in the Coast Guard, the Navy, Maritime Services and the Army.

The spry octogenarian was among those at the Lawrence luncheon bash that included pomp, films, music and skits remembering the 1.6 million Americans who served in the Armed Forces during WWII, and the more than 400,000 who died.

Some of the veterans walked tall, others hobbled into the party with the help of canes and others maneuvered down the aisle of honor in wheelchairs.

The school band struck up patriotic tunes and students hooted and hollered as the servicemen and women paraded into the multi-purpose room decorated
in red, white and blue flags, banners and posters.

A seventh grader said after the luncheon that last year's Veterans Day ceremony brought her to tears.

“It was so patriotic; they were sharing their stuff with us,” she said.

Principal Danford Schar told the crowd his father was a WWII veteran and it was with great honor and pride he presented the veterans to his students.

“This is an unbelievable privilege today,” Schar said. “There are thousands of heroic stories and everyday stories."

Students performed a skit answering the question: Who and what is a veteran? They mentioned author Roald Dahl, singer Elvis Presley, author Dr. Seuss and comedian Bill Cosby.

Others were part of a “Cadence Performance” as they marched in place to a rhythmic flow of sounds and words about civilian life and how lives changed after joining the military.

Purple Heart recipient Michael La Vere, 87, said it was fascinating being honored so many years after WWII.

“It’s thrilling to see the children studying what we did so they can enjoy their freedom,” said La Vere, a former U.S. Army Air Corps navigator on B-24 bombers. He flew 36 combat missions from England over Germany and the rest of Europe between early 1943 and December 1945.

La Vere said he participated in D-Day flying over enemy lines. He flew with a 10-man team. They were never was shot down, but some of them were hit by flack. He was wounded in the hand.

“The most dangerous part of the mission was anti-aircraft fire from the ground shooting up. If it hits you that’s it,” said La Vere who worked as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft for 33 years after the war.

“It never gets old being honored.”

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