Wellington Collegiate Academy Salutes Veterans

WCA students with retired U.S. Marine Sgt. John Hochella.

More than just a day off from school, Veterans Day is a time to reflect on the many sacrifices made by veterans. Held on Nov. 11, Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, which marked the anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in World War I that took place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

To help teach her students about honoring veterans, Jessica Valdez, music director at the Wellington Collegiate Academy (WCA), recently accompanied the WCA Vocal Ensemble to Palm Beach International Airport as part of the Honor Flight welcome home celebrations. The group displayed their talents with songs, welcoming local veterans home from their trip to Washington, D.C.

Juan Carlos Valdez, WCA director and co-owner, felt it was important for his students to participate in this event because many veterans never had a proper welcome. “Providing a proper welcome is an important act of appreciation and kindness that we want our students to experience,” he said.

Valdez added that WCA is celebrating patriotism as its encompassing school theme this year, and participating in the Honor Flight was a great opportunity for students to honor veterans and our country.

WCA also recently received a visit from retired U.S. Marine Sgt. John Hochella. He spent time with the students teaching them about the importance and significance of the U.S. Constitution.

Dr. Gabriela Mancini, a licensed clinical psychologist who works and resides in Palm Beach County, has dedicated a large part of her career to the Veterans Health Administration. She knows the importance of honoring veterans.

“We can honor our veterans by welcoming them home, allowing them to reintegrate as members of society, educating ourselves on the issues, fighting negative stereotypes and respecting what they have sacrificed so much for — our freedom,” she said.

Mancini added that the price of freedom can be observed by visiting any national cemetery or any Veterans Administration healthcare facility.

“Many of our veterans have suffered and continue to suffer long after combat is over. Some wounds are clearly visible… others, not so much,” she said.

In recent years, America has lost 20 veterans a day to suicide. Oftentimes traumatic stress and depression can be underlying causes for suicidal behavior. These conditions are treatable, and treatment can prevent suicide, Mancini explained.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, Mancini suggested offering support and encouraging them to seek help from trained mental health providers, such as the Veterans 24/7 Crisis Line (800-273-8255, press 1), the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center (561-422-8262) and the Palm Beach Vet Center (561-422-1220).