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The City Journals

Draper Park students thank veterans for service

Nov 29, 2016 04:48PM ● By Julie Slama

Retired U.S. Air Force Sgt. Kent Jex salutes the American flag during Draper Park Middle School’s eighth annual Veterans Day breakfast. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Retired U.S. Air Force Sgt. Kent Jex stood erect, saluting the American flag he helped defend during Vietnam, while attending Draper Park Middle School’s eighth annual Veterans Day breakfast.

“I was stationed at the strategic arms base in Mississippi, where we supported B-52s that flew to Guam and Thailand,” Jex said.  “I look forward to these programs as it gives us a chance to tell about our service to these kids, who don’t know what war was like. Vietnam was a nasty war. Nothing was resolved. Nobody wanted to be there; we were drafted. But today gives us a chance to reflect on some good memories and be appreciated.”

Jex was joined by his son, Chris, and grandson, eighth-grader Sam.

“This gives our veterans a chance to be recognized for what service they gave,” he said.

After the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, seventh-graders Eli Kimball and Hannah Kitterman shared readings of remembrance.

Eli read, “Our country was founded on veterans willing to give their lives to anyone who wishes to be free in a nation of peace. They protect us from war, gave our country faith and hope for all we have been given.”

He later told the active and retired military guests and their families that “all are heroes, in combat or not, all different people people united for a similar purpose,” Eli said. “Thank you.”

Hannah read from her poem “Speechless.”

Her poem thanks soldiers for being brave enough to die on a battlefield began with. “I don’t know how you do it, I’m too speechless to ask. I could never do such things, I could never even watch.”

During the program, the concert band played “A Celebration of Taps” and the choir sang “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.” Together, they performed the “Armed Forces Suite,” and asked each military member to stand during their branch’s song.

Master Sgt. Clayton Miller with the Utah Army National Guard addressed the audience, first thanking the veterans, then the educators.

“We’re here to thank the veterans, but also to those who have chosen the profession of education,” he said. “This is an opportunity to let our youth learn the importance of veterans. My mom was a teacher and she loved what she did. She was also a veteran. We wouldn’t be in the service without knowing how to read, write and do at least a little math. So make sure you find the opportunity to tell your teachers thanks for what they do,” he said.

Then Miller recalled how Nov. 11, formerly known as Armistice Day to honor the end of World War I, didn’t become an official holiday until 1938, almost 20 years after it was first commemorated. It wasn’t until after World War II and the Korean War in 1954 that Congress changed the day to Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

“I am proud to be an America and I hope you are too. This is the greatest country in the world. It is our freedoms that make it so, and those freedoms were won and defended by veterans — the men and women who put the ideals of our country before themselves,” he said.

Miller recounted a story of Private Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small-town barbershop in 1917 to go to France to serve. After he was killed, his diary was found. He had written, “America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”

Miller said many veterans have approached their service the same way.

“Our debt to these heroes can never be repaid, but our gratitude and respect must last forever,” he said.

He also thanked military spouses and children who have had career and school disruptions and frequent moves, separating them from friends and family. Then he asked students for a few things.

“Be grateful and say thanks. Be hopeful and optimistic. Find opportunities to serve others. All of this will help you be a great citizen,” he said.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lisa Berente retired from her position as a pilot of a KC-137 tanker last year. She wore her uniform proudly at the school’s breakfast, having served 29 years.

“My first year, I was married; I was gone 220 days,” she said. “I was stationed near Pisa, Italy. I’ve been on several trips, but also have been able to come home to my kids.”

That includes sixth-grader Hannah, who thanked her mother for attending her school’s Veterans Day program.  

Hannah’s grandfather also served in the Air Force.

“It’s a great tradition in our family. It’s a chance where we can serve, but also thank those before us,” Berente said.

Who said this? 

Is this the same Hannah talked about later in the story? (Lisa Berente’s daughter) The Hannah at the end isn’t given a last name, so I’m assuming it’s Berente. Just want to make sure they’re actually separate people. If they are the same person, there’s a discrepenacy in the grades--one’s in 7th, the other in 6th.