‘It’s a special thing to be a veteran’

Krystle Wagner • Nov 10, 2018 at 11:00 AM

SPRING LAKE — Fourth-graders at a local school ended the week by learning more about local residents who served in the military.

The Holmes Elementary School students met Friday with American Legion Charles A. Conklin Post 28 Cmdr. John Bilski, 1st Vice Cmdr. Janet Fonger, 2nd Vice Cmdr. Gary Doublestein, and a past post commander, Dave MacKellar.

Bilski spoke about his time serving in the U.S. Navy from 1968-72.

“I’ll never forget everything I went through in the service,” he told the kids.

Fonger wore the flight suit from her seven years in the U.S. Air Force, where she served aboard helicopters and aircraft. She said the “pickle suit” and boots are flame resistant.

MacKellar shared that he was a sergeant in the Marine Corps.

Dr. Doublestein spoke with students about his time in the Navy, Air Force and Army, which spans 24 years. He shared that he initially started in the Navy and served aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. While in medical school, Doublestein joined the Air Force and became an obstetrician/gynecologist.

Following his time in in Minot, North Dakota, Doublestein and his family moved to West Michigan, where he had his own practice.

In 2003, Doublestein joined the U.S. Army reserves and served in capacities such as a general surgeon and emergency room doctor during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the Army in 2011.

Students also learned about the special way the American flag is folded. As Bilski and MacKellar folded the flag, Fonger shared the meaning behind the 13 folds.

Fourth-graders Madalynn Hartman and Jack Nash said it was a “cool experience” meeting the veterans and learning more about their time in the service. Hartman, 10, said it made her feel grateful.

“I feel like people care about this country more than I thought,” said Nash, also 10.

When asked if members of their family served in the military, most of the Holmes fourth-graders raised their hands.

As the presentation concluded, Fonger encouraged the students to ask veterans in their lives why they joined the military. She said many people join because of their patriotism.

“It’s a special thing to be a veteran,” Fonger said.

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