Preschoolers learn how to honor veterans

Photo courtesy Holy Trinity Catholic School Facebook


JASPER — A chorus of stomps sounded in Dana Howard’s preschool class at Holy Trinity Catholic School Monday afternoon as a class of 3- and 4-year-olds snapped their feet to attention.

The kids were mirroring Marine Corps veteran Leon York of Huntingburg who was teaching them how to salute. Standing at attention is the first step. Then, you form a blade with your right hand and touch your thumb to your brow before cutting your hand back to your side. All the kids copied York’s movements, albeit a bit more clumsily than the former soldier standing in front of them.

“What we’re doing is to show that what we’re saluting is important to us,” York told the class. “It’s one way we can show courtesy.”

York and Luke Bawel, one of the three founders of Brothers for Veterans, visited Howard’s class Monday afternoon to share a lesson in gratitude and service to veterans with the preschool students. Luke’s daughter, Rayln, is in Howard’s class, and when Howard reached out to parents with volunteer opportunities at the beginning of the school year, Luke knew he wanted to share his passion for helping veterans with the students.

Luke and his brothers, Brock Bawel and Tyler Flick, founded Brothers for Veterans two years ago as a way to give back to the men and women who protect the American way of life. Through the organization, the brothers take veterans and active duty military members on hunting and fishing excursions as a way to show gratitude.

“We’ve always had a love for the military,” Luke said of himself and his brothers. “We were trying to figure out the best way to give back.”

Avid outdoorsmen themselves, the brothers decided that sharing their passions for hunting and fishing would be a good avenue. That idea became part of the lesson Luke shared with the students Monday. Whatever you like to do, he said, you can also do with a veteran. Chances are they’ll like to do it, too.

The afternoon was also a hands-on lesson about giving back to veterans. After Luke read “Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood” by Valerie Pfundstein to the class, each student decorated a coffee mug Luke will gift to a veteran attending one of the Brothers for Veterans excursions.

Henry Knies of Jasper drew himself, his grandfather — who is a veteran — and two other veterans on his coffee mug. Henry got to take his mug home to give to his grandfather.

At another table, Owen Compton of Jasper drew a veteran crawling along a tight rope on his mug. Then, he asked York if they climb ropes in the Marines.

“Oh, yeah,” York assured him. “You have to do it upside down, too, and you climb up them.”

By the end of the visit, students said they’d learned to give back to the veterans. Ryleigh Thomas was particularly excited. She likes to draw and was thrilled to learn that one way to show gratitude to veterans is by “making them pictures.”

More on