WPMS honors veterans during WWII-themed play

By Michelle Schneider PV Staff Writer

November 14th, 2019 | In Focus, News
 West Point Middle School students sing the “Service Song Medley” while veterans and servicemembers stand at attention during their branch song.
  A journalist interviews Rosie the Riveter about her job as she inspires women to wartime jobs and finding a sense of patriotism in their work. Photos by Michelle Schneider/PV
 West Point Middle Schoolers in the seventh and eighth grade drama class stand next to members of the Catholic War Veterans organization from New Windsor after their Veterans Day assembly Nov. 7. Photo by Kerri Schools/WPMS

Students, faculty and staff of West Point Middle School participated in their 13th annual Veterans Day assembly Nov. 7, which featured over 20 songs and scenes related to World War II in honor of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Veterans in the extended community and wartime United Service Organization members were invited to attend.
The event began with a flag ceremony performed by scouts and the color guard just before the advanced band class played the national anthem. Students recited a poem called, “I am the Flag,” and a monologue called “What is a veteran/what is Veterans Day?” These skits highlighted the patriotism, sense of duty and pride behind what it means to protect and defend the United States.
Once guests from veteran organizations in the local community were introduced and welcomed, two students presented a historical overview of World War II. Their informational lecture was the foundation of the skits and musicals performed by band members, drama and choir students throughout the assembly.
The advanced band played 20th century or period style musical compositions. During “To Honor, Thank and Remember,” slides were projected behind the band with photographs of the student and staffs’ relatives who served in or supported the military in an impactful way during World War II.
“It’s interesting, both with Veterans Day and Memorial Day, we often look at these holidays as a day off from school, but sometimes we don’t stop and say, ‘Why do we have this day?’ So, it’s really to set aside time to honor our veterans and those who live within the community outside our gates, but also those who currently are serving, and to educate our audience on a part of the military’s history,” Megan Reifenberg, a teacher at the West Point Middle School and play coordinator, said.
A series of D-Day themed skits followed the memorial tribute and the band’s performance to help attendees conceptualize what people experienced during the World War II era. Students performed a play as a family listening to the announcement of the war on the radio and discussed what the future holds for them.
A student played former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, USMA 1915 graduate, and presented a speech to the audience detailing the beginning of the war, just as some of their relatives may have heard during this time period.
Students dressed in uniforms appeared on the stage, creating a natural progression from the skits showing the day the war was announced to the patriots who took up arms to serve. They recreated what servicemembers went through during their journey to the beaches of Normandy through a narration of a former servicemember’s memory.
From enduring the splash of stormy waves to dodging sniper bullets, life was not easy for World War II Soldiers as demonstrated in the D-Day skits. Another performance showcased the brave contributions women made during the war when female students played nurses and handled the Soldier’s injuries.
“For the students who are in the audience, the non-performers, we want them to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices that our military members make for us,” Reifenberg said. “For the performers themselves, we ask how the arts—which is music, drama and visual arts—how do they help us connect, reflect and honor events and emotions. Which is really the bigger context of what makes our subject area unique.”
The intermediate band played “Arrival at Normandy,” which depicts the heroism and sacrifice Soldiers gave to wrap up a series of dramatic D-Day themed scenes just before more lighthearted skits and songs took over the stage.
A student impersonating Bob Hope, an English-American comedian who entertained USO members in over 50 tours during the 1940s, came onto the stage and made the audience laugh as he re-enacted jokes during the second half of the play.
Other skits showed the attitudes of women who replaced men’s jobs in factories and shipyards as the men were drafted to fight in World War II. They talked proudly about how they supported their men and country by building B-24 bombers, grenades and other munitions and war supplies.
One actress played Rosie the Riveter, the iconic woman from the J. Howard Miller poster with a flexed arm next to the “We can do it!” slogan. The skit demonstrated the empowerment and fulfillment working women found during World War II.
Musical performances followed with the choir boys performing, “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” which is a song about Soldiers wanting to sleep in when the bugler call sounds. The choir girls performed “Boogie Woogie,” a mid-century song about a man drafted into the Army as a reveille player.
The last performance included all the drama and musical performers singing a “Service Songs Medley” as a group. Each servicemember and veteran stood up when his or her branch song was sung.
“The event itself was fantastic. Everyone loved it. We were all so impressed with the orchestra, with the play. It was the best performance that we’ve ever been to,” said Michael Lutz, service officer for Catholic War Veterans. “This was basically about World War II and it was touching the way they put on the play.”
Anneli Hasz, an eighth grade student at WPMS, served as a scene narrator and performed in the choir. Hasz said the drama, choir and band students have worked very hard since the beginning of the school year to put the assembly together and expressed what makes the play meaningful.
“It’s to honor those who served anywhere in the military and anywhere in the world. They’re putting their life on the line for the American freedom and for our way of life, and I think that’s so great, it is more than words can say,” Hasz said. “They are so selfless, and I think it’s amazing.”