North Syracuse: Soldier's homecoming celebrated

"It fills the gap of grandfathers who aren't around anymore," he said. "It's a lot of fun for us, and it gives parents and children a sense of what we went through."

Also in attendance for the event were Clay Town Councilor Joseph Bick and Clay Town Justice-Elect Brian Lauri, both of whom have children who attend the school.

"It's good to see that the kids care," Bick said. "It means a lot to have the adults and the kids make sure the vets are recognized."

Bick's wife Jenny, who helped to coordinate the celebration, agreed.

"The best way to honor our veterans is to educate our children on their sacrifices," she said.

Sacrifice is something Johnston is very familiar with; since enlisting in the Army in 1994, he's spent a lot of time away from his wife, Vera, and their three children, including a daughter in sixth grade at St. Rose.

"This will be only the second Christmas we've spent together in 12 years of marriage," Vera Johnston said. "We've never spent an anniversary together."

"She's the strong one," Johnston said of his wife. "She's the one who's had to keep it together while I'm gone. But I'm home for a while now, so she won't have to do it alone anymore."

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