November 29, 2021

Teacher praises father, other vets 50 years after Vietnam War

Thanks for serving

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Army veteran Thomas Quinlan, center, speaks during Friday’s Veterans Day Assembly at Smith Intermediate School in Cortland.

Kristy Buchalla’s eyes welled up addressing students, parents and veterans about the Vietnam War veterans’ generation Friday at Smith Intermediate School’s Veterans Day Assembly. Her dad, a Vietnam veteran, sat just a few yards away.

“The Vietnam War wasn’t a war that a lot of Americans supported, so when the troops came home, they weren’t greeted with family and friends,” the third-grade teacher said. “Imagine being so far away from home and fighting in a war and coming home to no one. That can be probably really heartbreaking. That’s what a lot of these veterans went through, my father in particular.”

Buchalla’s father, Earl Alberry, an Air Force veteran, was one of the more than 50 veterans and military personnel at the event. Fourth-graders sang patriotic songs and presented facts about Veterans Day.

The assembly, in particular, was to welcome her father home, even though he returned from Vietnam more than 50 years ago.

“It was a special way to thank my father because he has severe PTSD and has never really been able to celebrate his time there,” Buchalla said. “It was nice just to have him have a positive feeling being a veteran because even though it was 1968, he still hasn’t come home.”

Alberry was almost killed while serving and has severe nightmares, Buchalla said.

It’s a lesson not lost on fourth-grader Emma Stout.

“I think Veterans Day is important because it makes them feel important that they did something brave,” the 9-year-old said.

Stout took part in singing songs like “God Bless the USA” and “On Veterans Day” along with presenting how Veterans Day is celebrated, and its history stemming from the end of World War I.

“I think the kids learned about its origins in World War I, and they saw the range of time for which people have served over the years,” said Kathleen Elliott-Birdsall, a third-grade special education teacher. “There were older gentlemen here and then young men who have just come out of the service.”

Elliott-Birdsall and Buchalla said children should celebrate Veterans Day.

“People get so involved in politics and negativity they forget we are Americans and we should be proud to be Americans and the kids need to celebrate that, too,” Buchalla said.