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W-F students honor WWII veterans

A trip to Hawaii is one 16 Weyauwega-Fremont choral students will not forget.

As the students stood on the USS Arizona Memorial, where more than 1,000 soldiers were killed on Dec. 7, 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the students dropped the orchids from their leis over the ship and grave.

“We started singing ‘The National Anthem.’ Everyone was watching us. When we finished, because it was such a reverent area, everyone was quiet. So many were crying. It was just the most amazing, beautiful thing,” said Markie Rodgers.

Rodgers, a senior at W-F High School, was among the students who went on the trip.

The students were joined on it by Choral Director Carrie Gruman-Trinkner, as well as by an accompanist and chaperones.

They were invited to participate in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade and sing at a memorial concert after Gruman-Trinkner sent CDs of the students singing “The National Anthem” to various groups.

“We were selected and invited to represent Wisconsin,” she said.

That was last year.

After being selected and receiving approval from the school board, the fundraising began.

The cost of the trip was $1,350 per person, and the students raised money through car washes, brat frys, a show, a donkey basketball game, Horse & Buggy Days games and a haunted trail.

Local veterans’ groups and the school’s alumni association also supported the students by donating funds.

At 4 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, the group left the high school and headed to Chicago for their flight to Hawaii.

The next day, the students marched in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade.

They wore bracelets which said, “WF honors veterans” and handed them out to veterans along the parade route.

An opening ceremony honoring veterans preceded the parade. Military dignitaries and Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie were among those in attendance.

On Sunday, Dec. 9, the students performed in a concert by the USS Missouri, site of the Empire of Japan’s surrender, which ended World War II.

“They had 30 minutes to sing for their part of the concert,” Gruman-Trinkner said. “They faced the ship when they sang, because they were singing to them. People stood up on the decks and watched them.”

Eighth grader Alex Bartel said it was an amazing experience and one he will never forget.

What he will remember about the trip is being at Pearl Harbor and seeing the names of all the men entombed in the USS Arizona.

Kelsey Trinkner, who is a junior at W-F High School, said, “Each one of those names was a life and had a family. Each of those words came with so much. So much was taken away from all these people.”

One of her grandfathers enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He lied about his age, as he was 17. A decorated World War II hero, he received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Gruman-Trinkner said as a choral director, she has gone on many trips with students.

“I was so proud,” she said of the students. “They were so friendly and nice. The respect they gave that last day (on the trip) – I will never forget the impact my students had on me that day.”

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