Elementary students host ceremonies for vets
Students of two Douglas County elementary schools took time out of their daily routines on Thursday to recognize those men and women who have put their own lives on the line in defense of the republic.
Hundreds of Gardnerville Elementary students wearing red, white and blue honored more than 30 veterans in their annual Veterans Day assembly.
Fifth-grade teacher Robbi Jacobsen began the tradition 12 years ago by inviting her father-in-law, the late Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, a Pearl Harbor survivor, to speak to her students.
It has since grown into a school-wide ceremony including poems, songs and military acknowledgment.
“It’s important for our kids to see face-to-face the men and women who have sacrificed so much so we can sit here freely today,” Jacobsen said.
Keala, Malia and Ahren Wallace’s father is a Navy medic deployed to Afghanistan. The siblings led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“All the veterans who have died makes me sad,” Keala said. “It’s a great deal of responsibility to lead the pledge. I want my classmates to learn how important it is to support all the veterans.”
Jon-Paul McNamara walked with his dad, Army Lt. Col. Bob McNamara, during the march in of all the veterans.
“It’s a lot of pride. I retired after 28 years and fortunately for me I still work with the Nevada National Guard,” Bob said. “The hardest thing for me was to take the uniform off, so to have the opportunity to put it back on is hard to describe. It’s such a privilege to serve your country.”
Jon-Paul, 8, said he enjoys being able to thank the veterans in the assembly.
“They help a lot by going into war for us and protecting us,” he said.
The veterans and students all stood as Gold Star Mom, Sally Wiley, placed a single red rose on a chair in remembrance of her son, Staff Sgt. Sean Diamond, who was killed February 2009 in Iraq.
“It’s such an honor to be here. It’s very moving to have our veterans, sons and daughters who have been lost be honored,” Wiley said. “It’s great for the community and great for the children to be able to meet and talk to real veterans about our country’s history, and the sacrifices that are made to keep it safe.”
Sam Brown, 10, said he plans to join the Air Force when he is old enough, and was thankful to be able to honor the veterans.
“Veterans Day means celebrating and thanking all the soldiers that have served our country and made it strong,” Sam said. “It would be a great honor to join the Air Force.”
Cameron Derousse, 11, grew up listening to his father’s stories about his time on a carrier in the Navy.
“It’s a day for me to honor people who served our country,” he said. “It’s a day to be proud of them.”
At Scarselli Elementary an hour later, Principal Brandon Swain said his school’s annual Veterans Day assembly offers appreciation to those “living as you have by deeds, not just words.”
The student body gathered in the multipurpose room and took turns offering their praise and deference through song, verse and story. The Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School band and choir contributed to the program, and the Douglas High JROTC color guard presented the flag.
“You fought for us all those days and nights, you fought for all our rights,” students rhymed. “Though we may not know each name, we thank all veterans the same.”
As the Pau-Wa-Lu band played the song of each military branch, respective veterans in the audience stood and shook hands with other members.
“It’s great. I’m one of those who felt that way, that we weren’t appreciated before,” said 61-year-old Johnson Lane resident and Vietnam vet Mike Samaniego.
In 1970, Samaniego was an E3 shipfitter with the Navy’s 116th River Patrol Task Force on the Mekong Delta.
“A lot of Vietnam vets felt that way,” he said. “I just want to say to the kids now: Thank you.”
Gardnerville resident Jim Caughron, 63, also served in Vietnam as an Army sergeant with the 563rd Transportation Co.
“I just think it’s a great thing they’re doing,” he said of the assembly. “It’s a great honor for Vietnam vets and vets in general.”
Caughron had a message for troops overseas:
“I want to thank you for what you’re doing and your service, and I hope all of you come home safe,” he said.
Fifth-grader Tia Mejia, 10, said veterans are important to her and other students for a very simple reason:
“They keep us safe,” she said. “We’re spoiled by how free we are, that we even have schools.”
Tia said she would keep veterans in mind not only one day a year, but every day for the rest of her life.
“They protect us,” she said. “They die for us.”