Notes from the Classroom

Honoring our troops

Members from each branch of the Armed Forces were honored at Parkwood High Monday, Sept. 12, during a luncheon hosted by Union County Public Schools Resource Officer Jim Kennedy. He said he wanted to hold the luncheon the Monday after Sept. 11 ceremonies to continue the recognition  of men and women in uniform.
“This is my gift back to the military, who are still over there fighting for our freedom every single day,” said Kennedy, one of seven sheriff’s deputies in Union County either at Ground Zero in New York City or at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, during 9/11.
Marine Corp. Canaan Honeycutt, a 2004 graduate of Parkwood High School, came back to his old high school to enjoy the luncheon.
“When 9/11 happened, I was sitting in class here, watching it on TV,” he said.  “My sister is a student here now. She sings in the chorus and asked us to come out.”
US Army Sgt. Shawn Slatt said he was grateful for the recognition.
“I really appreciate Officer Kennedy having this luncheon for us. To see that people still care and are appreciative of the sacrifices we make, that means a lot.”
Parkwood’s Air Force Junior ROTC helped serve lunch and the Parkwood High School Chorus sang various military anthems and patriotic songs.
“It’s a wonderful thing bringing people from all walks of life, people who are retired, people who are still in service, young recruits who are still being influenced by the older people here, people from different wars,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Lexie Lawrence said. “We’re all fighting together for the same cause.”
Her fiancé, North Carolina National Guardsman 1st. Sgt. James Yanacsek, said it was nice to be recognized even after the 9/11 ceremonies were finished.
“They’ve got law enforcement, military, Navy, Air Force, Army, all together, World War II veterans, Korean vets,” Yanacsek said. “It’s an amazing event that really humbles me to see all these young students, some only up to my knees when 9/11 occurred. They come by and clap for us. I’m appreciative and humbled by the entire experience.”
Kennedy was especially happy to see his father-in-law, Mike Carrieri, a World War II veteran who served in the US Navy. He also invited his fellow law enforcement officers from the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the highlights for most of those present was the presence of Wesley Ruth, 97, who was a pilot the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. Ruth shared his memories of that December day in 1941.
“They came in about 8 am,” he said. “I got my cap and coat, ran out and got in my car and drove to the hanger. I was the only officer there at that time. Most of the officers were in Honolulu.”
Ruth said he waited instructions and when other officers arrived, they were all sent out to search for Japanese planes. “They assigned me to fly due north for 250 miles and then turn east and come back into Pearl Harbor,” he said. “As I was getting ready to taxi away from the hanger area, an officer came out and handed me three rifles that we were supposed to use by shooting out of our plane’s windows. We were going out after Japanese Zeros with rifles!”
The Japanese Zero was a long-range fighter aircraft armed with two 7.7 mm machine guns, two 20 mm cannon and two bombs. “It was a laugh,” Ruth said. “I figured this would be a one-way trip. I was one of the first planes off the ground after the second attack, but I didn’t see anything at all.”
Unfortunately, Ruth’s brother, Tom Ruth, also a pilot, was not so lucky. His plane was shot down on June 30, 1943. His body was never recovered.
Ruth said he was honored to be recognized at the luncheon and enjoyed being in the midst of all the servicemen and women. “This luncheon is terrific,” he said. “I am so impressed with the feeling of camaraderie when you come in here.”
After all the soldiers ate, Kennedy said he had so much food left that he invited not only deputies from the Union County Sheriff’s Office, but also area volunteer firefighters and the Waxhaw Police Department. He still had enough food left to donate to the Monroe homeless shelter.
Union County has seven deputies with the Sheriff’s Office who were in the midst of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. Those deputies are Jim Kennedy, Neil Sullivan, Tom Luisa, Bobby Chomicki, Mike Kenary, Jeffery Felipe and AJ Wallace.
During the luncheon, Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey presented each deputy with a plaque thanking him for his service. The plaques read: “On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Sheriff Eddie Cathey and the Union County Sherriff’s Office thank you for your service to our country in your response to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.”

– Information for the article was provided by the Union County Public Schools Communications Office.

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