Serving Those Who Served: Chantilly High Honors Veterans

Serving Those Who Served: Chantilly High Honors Veterans

From left are Steve and Monique Hunt, Bill Sheads and Maria Mnimbo.

From left are Steve and Monique Hunt, Bill Sheads and Maria Mnimbo. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.


National Honor Society members Hyma Yaddanapudi (left) and Neha Ankam serve turkey wraps at the annual event honoring veterans at Chantilly High.


Elise Mazzone serves spinach quiche to Navy veteran Charlie Fontz.


Retired Marine Col. Bob Mason (left) with his grandson, Bryan Holleman.


Representing Chantilly’s AFROTC are (from left) Cadet 1st Lt. Seung Gue Kang; senior instructor Tim Lambert, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel; and Cadet 2nd Lt. MacEgan Froberg.

Each year, Chantilly High and members of its National Honor Society (NHS) honor area veterans, and it’s something both the hosts and guests eagerly anticipate. And the Nov. 18 event was no exception.

Attendees feasted on hors d’oeuvres and desserts made by the school’s culinary arts students and then were treated to an evening of entertainment. Chantilly’s Air Force JROTC presented the colors, and retired Chantilly teacher and Army vet Charles Demek led the Pledge of Allegiance.

The school’s Chamber Chorale sang the National Anthem and “Blades of Grass and Pure White Stones.” Theater students reenacted historical vignettes of note, and the orchestra performed several numbers, including an Armed Forces salute with the chorus.

“I love it,” said Navy Cmdr. (ret.) Charlie Fontz, the librarian at Rocky Run Middle School. Before retiring in 1989, he was a helicopter pilot and communications specialist during the Vietnam War. Attending this veterans’ celebration for his second time, he said, “It’s wonderful bringing all the veterans together to be recognized. Chantilly puts on a good show and we really appreciate it.”

NHS members Hyma Yaddanapudi and Neha Ankam, both freshmen, helped serve the food and were happy to participate. “It feels good to give something back to my community, said Yaddanapudi. “The veterans have done many things for us.”

“I feel honored, serving a lot of great people,” said Ankam. “And giving back to them is respectful because they worked hard for us.”

NHS President Jordan Beeker, a senior, said some 80-90 NHS members volunteered for the event. “We all got here at 3:30 p.m. to set up tables, decorations and lighting,” she said. “And after serving the food and beverages, they’ll also do cleanup.”

“This is something Chantilly has been part of for seven years,” she said. “It’s unique to our National Honor Society. We take pride in doing it every year, and the veterans look forward to it.”

Fairfax County Electoral Board Chairman Steve Hunt, a former county School Board member, visited with WWII veteran Bill Sheads, 92, who landed at Normandy on June 16, 1944, driving a truckload of explosives. Sheads was in the Army’s 113th Armed Cavalry in Europe and later had a career with the Fairfax County Fire Department.

Hunt is a retired Naval flight officer who flew F4 and F14 aircraft during the Cold War. Pleased with Chantilly’s annual veterans’ event, he said, “I think it’s just great. It’s always fabulous, and the kids do a wonderful job with the food and music. And it’s very special for them to get to meet the veterans and to honor them this way.”

Greenbriar’s Bob Mason is a former Marine who went in as a private and retired 31 years later as a colonel. Serving from 1952-83, he was in the infantry in Vietnam with the 26th Green Regiment and was the regiment’s communications officer. Now, he goes to various elementary schools and talks to children about the Constitution, Bill of Rights and freedom.

At last week’s event, he said, “Young people nowadays get such bad press that it’s good to see these young kids doing something positive like this. My children went to Chantilly High and my grandson was in the AFROTC here.”

AFROTC Cadet 1st Lt. Seung Gue Kang, a Chantilly senior, said 50 or more AFROTC members were there helping the veterans, guiding them around and answering their questions. “We thank them for their service, talk with them and get to know them a little more so we can better serve them,” he said.

Delighted to participate, Kang said, “It’s an opportunity we can’t miss. It’s an honor to meet all these veterans and learn their stories. And it reflects our unit positively. The Air Force core values are ‘integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do,’ and this is the service part of it. The veterans have gotten us to where we are today and this is our way of honoring them.”