On the hot, sunny Friday before Memorial Day, 40 children from the Jewish Early Learning Center Preschool and Camp marched on Merrick Avenue with homemade flags in hand to surprise a veteran.
Vincent Mientus, of Merrick, was holding a Buddy Poppy drive with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to raise funds for veterans’ care when he noticed a group of children approach him. The children surrounded Mientus and waved their flags to show their appreciation for veterans.
In a letter Mientus wrote to the Herald titled “Thank you,” he said, “For the first time in my 40 years with a veteran organization has such a young, patriotic display of vocal enthusiasm made my day.”
Chanie Kramer, co-founder of the Jewish Early Learning Center at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, said the children were excited about the encounter. “At the Jewish ELC universal pre-K, the children learned about the significance of Memorial Day and the importance of giving thanks to our veterans, who literally put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” she said. “The veteran was very happy to see the children and seemed touched by this display of honor and love.”
The children also donated to the VFW and sang “God Bless America,” Kramer said.
“I was so happy to see how happy our students made the veteran,” Roni Shetrit, a teacher at the center, said. “I was proud that we can instill this sense of gratitude to our children in the most tangible way.”
Other teachers who accompanied the children echoed Shetrit’s emotions. “It was heartwarming to see the children interact with the veteran,” Ivy Fishbein said. “It made him feel special and brightened up his day.”
Celeste Pomerantz said the event was especially meaningful because students “understood what Memorial Day is all about,” while Chardae Tillman said she was “filled with pride when I saw the children interact with the veteran.”
All proceeds of the Buddy Poppy drive benefit the Northport Veterans Affair Medical Center and veterans organizations, Mientus said.