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Local Schools Honor Veterans With Patriotic Programs

Dec 07, 2015 12:30PM ● Published by Julie Slama

By Julie Slama

Sandy - Several schools gave a salute to veterans and current military servicemen and servicewomen through songs, words and photographs — and a simple word of thanks.

At Eastmont Middle School, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Eugene Hecker, of Sandy, came to the school’s second annual Veterans Day program when his neighbor, seventh grader Violeta Martinez, invited him to the Nov. 11 breakfast. He brought his World War II commemorative medals to show students and talked about the scrap metal still embedded in his wrist.

“The best part of the service was coming home to my family on the Liberty ship,” said the World War II veteran. “We were coming home through such heavy water, we thought we had been torpedoed. We ran out of food except for spaghetti noodles, and for three days ate spaghetti once each day. Then, as we got closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, there was such heavy fog, we stayed put until a pilot ship guided us in. When we got off in Oakland, I kissed the ground.”

Sixth grader Kayla Siebeneck, who brought her grandfather Don Coleman, who lives in Sandy, said she has heard some of her grandfather’s and extended relatives’ stories from serving.

Coleman, who was drafted in 1969 and served two years as a private on the front lines in Vietnam, remembered guarding a river that bordered North and South Vietnam, helping to ensure boats with food and water supplies could get through.

“There was heavy artillery, but it usually went right over us. Still, the worst part was being shot at,” he said, remembering that he was on one side of a 20-inch concrete wall the French soldiers had made and abandoned. “I was drafted with 100 other boys right out of high school, and 35 were selected for the Marines and the rest of us were in the Army.”

The program, coordinated by the school’s National Junior Honor Society, featured members reading thank-you letters to veterans written by students, which also were bound and distributed to attending veterans. The school choir sang “Danny Boy” and “Imagine,” and during the playing of each military branch’s song, veterans and currently serving military, including eighth-grade science teacher Ryan Miller who is serving in the Utah Air National Guard, were applauded as they stood for their appropriate branch.

Thirteen Alta High teachers and staff were amongst the honored veterans at Alta High’s Veterans Day program, Nov. 11.

Student body president Brennan Hunt, who invited his grandfather, Heber Hunt who served in the Korean War, told students that this was the most important assembly they would have all year.

“Without these veterans and their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have any other assemblies,” he said.

The program included honoring World War II veterans, some who had grandchildren introduce them and present them with Alta baseball hats, before guest speaker Masami Hayashi spoke about his experience during World War II in military intelligence and about the most decorated Japanese-American unit from Topaz, Utah, who served even after being forced from their homes after the attack of Pearl Harbor.

The program also included sophomore Addie Wray singing the national anthem and the acapella choir’s performance of “America the Beautiful” before Principal Brian McGill addressed the students and guests.

“Veterans Day is a special and sacred time to recognize those who have gone before us and who have literally put their lives on the line to secure, defend and protect the freedoms that each of us take for granted each and every day here in America,” McGill said. “Each of us have family members, close and extended, who have served or are currently serving with dignity, fortitude, and pride, so we can each have the freedom and liberty to make the choices we make, such as voting, places of schooling, occupations or careers, or the way we choose to live our lives in pursuit of fulfilling our dreams as Americans.”

Sunrise Elementary began their second-annual Veterans Day program on Nov. 11 with a local Boy Scout troop leading the flag ceremony and students saying things that are free to them, before a student pointed out that they wouldn’t be free without the many people who serve in the military and made the ultimate sacrifice. Then, about 100 fifth graders sang, “Freedom Isn’t Free.”

Photographs of students’ and teachers’ relatives who have served or are serving in the military, as well as stories of their service, stretching as far back as the Civil War, highlighted the program. The stories included positions from Army band to radio operator and eye doctor to combat engineer; places they traveled from the South Pacific to North Africa and Vietnam to Morocco; Purple Hearts and other awards they’ve received. 

Invited local veterans were asked to stand to be honored.

“Our fifth grade is presenting a Veterans Day program to honor the veterans related to our student body,” fifth-grade teacher Shannon Broadhead said before the program. “With U.S. history as part of our fifth-grade curriculum, we learn about how America was founded and the importance of the liberty we enjoy. We think it’s important that our students understand and honor the sacrifices of veterans throughout history, as well as those currently serving in the military.”

The fifth graders recited part of the Declaration of Independence and shared traits of good citizenship they learned, such as caring for people, places and animals, volunteering in the community, voting, being a steward to the earth and obeying laws.

Other songs, including “Thank-You Military,” “Fifty Nifty,” “This is America,” and “What’s More American?” rounded out the program before the fifth graders sang their ending number, with flashlights: “We Can Be a Light.” 

A highlight of Silver Mesa’s “ABC’s of America” program, slated for Nov. 24, is the annual presentation of carnations as a way of thanks to local veterans. 

“We want our students to understand the dedication and sacrifices these men and women made when they left their family and friends to uphold our freedoms,” fifth-grade Silver Mesa teacher April Humphries said. “We not only study our history and know why events happen, we want our students to feel the patriotism and be contributing citizens in America.”

Another highlight planned for the patriotic program was a talent showcase performed by fifth graders, including a musical selection and a traditional Navajo dance.

Amongst the songs Silver Mesa fifth graders planned to sing were “God Bless America,” “Star Spangled Banner,” “Pledge of a Song,” and the “Bill of Rights” rap song. Local Boy Scouts planned to present the colors.

“The emotion when seeing the flag goes by — it inspires the feeling of pride, of love of country, of appreciation of veterans who fight for our country; this is why we have our program,” Humphries said.

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