Veritas Classical Academy honors veterans with lunch

Photo by Janelle Patterson Roger Watkins, 65, a U.S. Navy veteran from Belpre, takes a hug from his grandson Christopher Watkins, 7, at the veterans appreciation luncheon at Veritas Classical Academy Friday.

MARIETTA — Students of Veritas Classical Academy invited U.S. Armed Forces veterans to join them for lunch Friday in appreciation for their family members’ service.

“It’s just nice to sit down and hear their stories,” said Ana Staudt, 13, of Marietta. “He fought for our country and risked his life for us.”

Staudt’s grandfather, Joe Staudt, 89, of Williamstown, said he was delighted to share lunch with his wife and two granddaughters at the school.

“I’ve shared very little about the (Korean) war,” he said. “But they asked me to come.”

Staudt was one of many veterans called to stand and be thanked by the students Friday, with all branches of the military-Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard- recognized and each veteran in the cafeteria recognized and introduced.

“This is the one time of the day when we have the whole school together,” explained Headmaster Ben Rutherford of the gathering. “There was a general hum about the school all morning, an excitement as everyone moved about to make sure rugs were vacuumed and tables prepared. It certainly had that holiday feel about it.”

And with chili, baked potatoes and sweet treats like Ana Staudt’s pumpkin pie on the menu for lunch, families recognized the sacrifice and service of all of the veterans in the room.

“I really just enjoyed eating with my family,” said Roger Watkins, 65, a U.S. Navy veteran from Belpre. “It’s important for young people to know what veterans went through but I don’t want them to go through it too.”

Watkins was visiting with his daughter and grandson, Christopher.

“We’re here to say thank you,” said Christopher, 7, of Belpre.

Additional Veterans Day festivities will carry on today in Marietta with the parade lining up at Fourth and Butler streets at 9 a.m. and kicking off at 10 down Fourth, Putnam and Front streets to the memorial in East Muskingum Park.