By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Twenty-one days of parceling out meager amounts of K rations. Twenty-one days of “drinking water by the teaspoon full.” Twenty-one days of catnaps, the endless ocean horizon, and hours of silence spelled by outbursts of laughter
“There we sat for 21 days, not knowing what would happen next, what we should do or how we should do it,” said Ferraro, a retired New Castle High School music teacher.
And then, on the 21st day, when they saw a ship, wondering if it would be an American vessel to rescue them, or a Japanese ship to welcome them to a potentially worse fate than being stuck in a raft.
As Olivia Schmidt listened to Ferraro’s story of his service during World War II, she attempted to place herself in the raft.
She couldn’t do it.
“Trying to fathom what he was taking about, I can’t imagine what he was going through on those 21 days,” the Hickory High School senior said. “Unbelievable.”
Ferraro, of Bessemer, was one of 11 World War II veterans and a few dozen veterans through the modern day honored Wednesday at Hickory’s 4th Annual Veterans Appreciation Program.
The National Honor Society hosts the event, which includes a program with music by the Hickory Chamber Singers and Concert Band and lunch cooked by the cafeteria staff.
“It’s really commendable that they would do this,” said Navy vet Tim Jones of Hermitage, who was surprised at the program with a high school diploma. Jones, father of Hermitage teachers Tim and Mike Jones, was due to graduate in 1962 from Sharon High School, but donned a sailor suit before he could be sized for a cap and gown.
“I didn’t know they were doing it,” Jones said, moved by the gesture.
Ferraro appreciated the opportunity to speak and to be honored, calling the event “beautiful.”
“It is really great that the younger people would put in the time to organize this thing,” he said.
The honor students spent months putting the program together, conducting research, raising money, writing letters of appreciation, baking cookies and other related tasks, said society advisor Roseanne Hoffman.
“I hope what they’ll gain from the experience is the understanding that in a world where many look up to and often idolize professional athletes and celebrities, there are people right in our own communities who are real heroes who we can look up to and personally recognize and honor,” Hoffman said.
Senior Courtney Hull experienced mixed emotions at the program. While she was proud of how the society members worked as a team to pull off the event and of the family members who have served in the military over the years, she was saddened that her grandfather, Theodore Hull, who was supposed to attend, was not there. The West Salem Township man died last Thursday at age 83.
“I was thinking about him and what he might have gone through,” Courtney said, noting that her grandfather didn’t want to talk about his service, which included an Army stint in Korea and 30 years in the reserves.
Principal Chris Gill said the annual veterans program is always a personal highlight for him. He said he finds it hard not to be emotional.
Society President Andrew Bianco said the event is an attempt to replace some of the nonchalance that often accompanies Veterans Day.
“I want to thank you for stepping forward when others have stepped back,” said society Vice President Rachel Mettee.