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Honored veteran recalls war for students

KINGSTON — In 1944, a wounded American sergeant named John Hawk found himself in a furious battle against German tanks near Chambois, France.

Despite a wound that opened his right thigh Hawk, who had enlisted in Bremerton, manned a bazooka, then offered himself as a human aiming stake for the American tank destroyers.

The efforts of Hawk and other soldiers in Company E, 359th Infantry, 90th Infantry resulted in the Germans’ surrender, and for his efforts, Hawk was awarded the Medal of Honor by Harry Truman.

In 2001, Hawk was a special guest at the Veterans’ Day assembly at Gordon Elementary.

The assembly opened with music from the Richard Gordon band (all patriotic tunes, of course), then saw student Adam Cain lead the gym full of students and adults in the pledge of allegiance.

Former student Janna Murray (she now attends NKHS) sang an emotional “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The ceremony was opened by fifth and sixth grade teacher and retired Master Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy Mel Gallup.

“We’re here to give thanks to the unbroken line of men and women who did not shrink from service to their country,” Gallup said.

After another performance by the band, Hawk was introduced — he stood patiently through an ovation that lasted more than two minutes.

“You’ve got to listen real good,” Hawk slyly told the students, “because I used to be a principal, too.”

Hawk said, “We wish to honor and remember the people who served our country and kept it as free and wonderful as it is.”

Of his efforts in the battle near Chambois, Hawk said: “I think that’s the way it happened. I don’t remember it too well.”

He added, “I was busy at the time.”

Hawk said he was proud to be a bearer of the Medal of Honor, which stands for the honor of all U.S. veterans; he reminded students and staff to remember those left behind during war, the families of servicemen and women.

He said, “There are no winners in a war; just those who lost more or less. And believe me, everyone in war loses something.”

The students sang “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” after Hawk had finished.

There was also a moment of silence and a performance of “Taps.”

Students then got to show off their uniforms: selected students — Cub Scouts, Eagle Scouts, Brownie and Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and a pair of Eagle Scouts — performed a flag ceremony, exchanging the flag with each other and saluting; they then surprised Mr. Hawk by giving him the flag.

He pressed it to his chest.

The ceremony ended with a performance by Sonja Ainsworth, who performed a medley of patriotic songs.

The biggest ovation was made as the assembly ended, for the real subject of the afternoon.

“Let’s have a hand for the United States of America,” Gallup said.

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