Nobel Peace Prize winner and Saugerties High School alumnus Peter Zmiyarch was among more than 40 veterans honored Monday, Nov. 10 during Veterans Day ceremonies at Grant D. Morse Elementary School.
Zmiyarch, a 1983 graduate of Saugerties High School, is the assistant head of operations security for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Netherlands. In the fall of 2013, the OPCW and its staff, including Zmiyarch, were honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to rid the world of chemical weapons.
Zmiyarch served in the United States Marine Corps from 1984 to 1992. In addition to taking part in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he also served on presidential detail for presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“The threats and the battlefields have changed,” Zmiyarch told students, faculty, and other veterans assembled for the Morse ceremony, but “Saugerties still produces many admirable men and women” willing to put their lives on the line for freedom. He added that Saugerties School District does an outstanding job of recognizing those who have served. He called Monday’s ceremony, which included songs and presentations by students, “wonderful” and “fabulous.”
Another distinguished veteran honored at the ceremony was Joe Sinnott, a native of Saugerties who served with the United States Navy Seabees on Okinawa.
“I’m so proud to have been a part of the U.S. Navy during World War II,” Sinnott said, recalling his enlistment in 1944 as a young man of 18 who had “rarely been past Kingston” but was headed for the jungles of the Pacific.
When he returned from the war, Sinnott went on to a career as a comic book artist, ultimately bringing to life classic characters like Spiderman, Captain America, and the Fantastic Four.
Sinnott expressed his appreciation to the students and staff at Morse for the moving ceremony in the veterans’ honor.
“It’s a great tribute to us,” Sinnott said. “Thank you.”
In addition to Zmiyarch and Sinnott, honorees included WWII veterans Paul and Amelia Chmura, Board of Education President George Heidcamp, former Morse principal Bruce Eymann, and many students’ family members, representing every branch of the armed forces. The Saugerties Junior High School band performed the theme song of each branch while the honorees stood to be recognized.
“This is where we keep World War II alive, in the schools, and we do a tremendous job of it,” said Paul Chmura.
Superintendent Seth Turner reminded the students that “all members of the armed forces are heroes, and so are their families,” while principal Don Dieckmann said, “Today and every day, veterans are in our hearts.”