Veterans Affair Assembly at Manville High School


Alanis Alfaro

This past month on November 9th, Manville High School history students had the privilege to listen to the stories of six veterans in the Manville auditorium. The six veterans that came consisted of Commander Franks: Peter Keller, USMC, Korea; Charles Goodyear, US Army, Korea; Tom Anspach, US Army, Vietnam era; Ed Suhaka, US Army, Vietnam era; Steve Franks, US Navy, Cold War; Steve Sabol, US Navy, Vietnam era. The high school first heard from Commander Franks who proposed the question, “What is a veteran?”  

Commander Franks first explained the history of Veterans Day and Armistice Day. He also highlighted the importance of celebrating Veterans day. Veterans day is a day to remember those who were in service and those who died in service. Commander Franks then went on to introduce the other Veterans sitting beside him and explained their roles to the students. Each veteran introduced himself. This presentation was not only informative, but it was also astonishing for those who weren’t knowledgeable about it prior. The Veterans spoke about times when they were shot at and those times when they themselves were the ones doing the shooting. The students watched this with their eyes wide open and some even murmured in shock. 

One part of their speech was the question, “Why did we do what we did?” This was truly an audience-grasping question to the students in the audience. This question definitely was intriguing because there were many students who were confused about why someone would want to go get shot at for a living. The Veterans started this segment of their presentation with a statistic. “Less than 1% of the American population served in the military.”  He then explained that this is why it is very important to recognize Veterans Day even if you do not have a relative that fought in the war. 

Commander Franks told a story of him at war which many students found compelling. Around 1980, every day he was in the marines for 8 years, an Iranian aircraft would test their resolve. He then started talking about the many difficulties of being in the marines or in service in general. He explained the mental difficulty, that people tend to keep to themselves. Some people don’t comprehend what happened to these soldiers so they don’t talk about it. He says, “Even though they don’t talk about it, it doesn’t mean they don’t think about it.” This was very powerful for those students who have family members that were or are in service. Some students were even whispering about how little some of their relatives told them about the war. Out of all the Veterans, Commander Frank had the longest time out at sea- 57 days!  

Towards the conclusion of the assembly, the opening line of their speech was brought back, but with answers this time. “What is a Veteran?”  Commander Franks said the one, powerful statement that makes someone a veteran is, “A vet is someone who at one point wrote a check to America profiting their life.” After he said this, all the other Veterans nodded in agreement with him. He repeated it again two more times, allowing time for the students to process what it meant in their heads. When one signs up for the armed service, they are signing their life up and sacrificing it because they don’t know what can happen at war. After, students were able to ask questions to the Veterans. 

One student asks, “Was it worth it?”
Commander Franks replies, “For me, it was worth it.”  

Vice principal and sports director Mr. Venuto told students that his father served in Korea in 1950.  They explained the element of isolation when one is in service, and how they cannot be in contact with their family, only through letters. When they leave the army, they have to sign a discharge contract that says, “Obligation is fulfilled.”  

Another student asked, “Have you ever killed someone?”
“You have to defend yourself,” stated Commander Franks. 

One of the Veterans, Tom Anspach was shot at and he said that when that happens, “You know what to do.”
“It was automatic, it’s a reflex.”

After the assembly was over I had the privilege to ask them a question. “What is the advice you would give to those who are entering the army?”  They replied, “ I would say for them to be truthful with your goals. For example, if you want to travel, go navy.”  “Go army!” 

We were honored to have these men from the Manville VFW visit us this day. It was a great way to remember and celebrate the service of all those Veterans who have put their lives on the lines protecting our freedom, liberty and way of life. Thank you, Manville VFW.