Elementary schools honor veterans | RecordCourier.com

Elementary schools honor veterans

by Scott Neuffer
sneuffer@recordcourier.com

The red, white and blue was in full swing Tuesday morning as Valley elementary schools honored more than 50 veterans of the U.S. military.

“We have to always try to remember them,” said Gardnerville Elementary sixth-grader Makayla Shaver, “because they fought for our country and fought for our freedom.”

Makayla and half a dozen classmates waited outside the school Tuesday morning, standing in two columns with mini American flags in hand, welcoming veterans as they arrived to the annual assembly.

Inside, more sixth-graders sat behind a table registering the guests and directing them to the teacher’s lounge, where refreshments abounded.

“They just need some respect,” said 11-year-old registrar Cheyenne Aarons.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Twisleton, who served in Germany from 2002 to 2006, said it was an honor to come to the school, especially since he has two children who attend.

“My son was too young to know it when I was serving,” Twisleton said. “I do enjoy it very much. It’s one time in the year you feel really honored. It’s a great, great thing.”

First Class Petty Officer Kerry Hodges, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1974 to 1983, came down from Dayton for the celebration.

“My granddaughter attends the school,” he said. “I have a grandson in Carson whose school had a breakfast for veterans this morning. It’s been a busy day.”

Hodges said it’s beneficial for kids to see veterans up close and personal.

“A lot of kids today don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “The Afghan war may mean nothing to them now, but in 20 years it will be different. It’s good for them to see soldiers and put a face to it.”

More than 30 veterans from different military branches filed onto the school’s stage accompanied by music and applause.

“I don’t think we can thank veterans enough,” said GES Principal Shannon Brown.

He pointed to a teacher whose Vietnam vet father was publicly thanked for the first time at the school’s assembly years ago.

“If it can make a difference like that, then it’s important to do every year,” he said.

Fifth-grade teacher Robbi Jacobsen called on the student body to give a heartfelt thank-you to all the veterans on the stage.

“The unity of America springs from the same cause that the people on this stage are willing to fight for – freedom,” she said.

Hundreds of students, including some who had parents on the stage, sang songs in honor of Veterans Day, recited poems and essays.

“The day is for those who give their youth and hope and might to fight for what they know is right,” Jacobsen’s fifth-grade students recited from a poem.

Across the Valley, at Scarselli Elementary School, more than 15 veterans were receiving similar recognition in another annual assembly.

“Your presence reminds us to live as you have, by deeds, not just words,” said Principal Brandon Swain.

Members of the Douglas High JROTC program marched through the school’s gym to present the colors for the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School choir sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Our Song of Peace,” followed by the middle school band performing “Marches of the Armed Forces.” During the latter, veterans were asked to stand when the song of their branch came on, much to the applause of the audience.

“We can choose to make America a better place, we can choose to be better citizens,” third-grade students shouted in unison before singing “Choices.”

Afterward, fourth-graders Kaela Forvilly and Blake Murray explained the history of the school’s namesake hero, Gene Scarselli. He served in World War II, they told the audience, and was captured by the Japanese and kept as a prisoner of war for three years. After being released, they said, he became a teacher and moved to Gardnerville where he eventually served as district superintendent for 19 years.

“We’re proud to have our school named after him,” said Forvilly and Murray.

The entire first grade then came together to sing, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

“Every heart beats true for the red, white and blue,” the students sang, while audience members joined in with clapping.

After teacher Leslie Campbell sang “America the Beautiful,” fellow teacher Renee McCreary presented a slide show. The lights dimmed, and pictures of American soldiers flashed on the screen, faces from different times, different wars, but all strong-looking with the courage of sacrifice in their eyes.

Perhaps a line at the end of the slide show summed it up best: “Let no hero be forgotten.”