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The City Journals

Jordan Ridge’s Veterans Day program tears up veterans, seniors

Dec 02, 2016 03:47PM ● By Julie Slama

Standing by his World War II photographs, veteran Newel Ward, and his daughter Dianne Peck, were amongst those in the Carrington Court audience of Jordan Ridge’s Veterans’ Day program. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

A dozen Carrington Court assisted living center veterans, some with tears in their eyes, nodded and sang along with about 30 Jordan Ridge fifth-graders who performed patriotic songs that outlined important dates in American history.

For years, Jordan Ridge Elementary fifth-graders perform a Veterans Day program at the school, but this year, teacher Carol Whittaker decided to have students walk to the nearby Carrington Court and perform it for the residents.

“My husband is a veteran, as was my dad, who died last year,” she said. “They are both very patriotic and love Veterans Day. I knew there were WWII veterans at Carrington Court, like my dad, and I really wanted to sing some of our patriotic songs to them.”

Carrington Court Activities Director Diane Kunz said each year the assisted living center holds a Veterans Day program to honor the veterans.

“We want to pay tribute to our veterans and show our love and respect for these patriotic citizens,” she said. “With this program, it gives these wonderful children a chance to connect with the ‘greatest generation.’” 

Teacher Tina Rothe said she has had students be pen pals with the seniors as well as taken students to sing to them at the end of the year.

“It is a wonderful moment for my students to mingle with these amazing people— many of them veterans from World War II,” she said. “(It’s) very stirring as they try to sing along with familiar patriotic songs.”

The program, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem, recognized the 240th year of the Declaration of Independence with “The Bill of Rights.” To celebrate the opportunity to elect officials, as well as the values of America, the program included the songs “Vote” and “Young People of the World.”

Dressed in red, white and blue, Jordan Ridge students also sang some familiar songs, such as “Thank You Military” and “God Bless America” and asked veterans to wave when they heard their branch song in the Military Medley.

Utah National Guard Staff Sgt. Darrin Higgins, who led a closing prayer, recognized the veterans.

“You are the best generation,, and I’m honored to be here with you. I joined because of your generation,” he said, then continued, addressing the students. “Don’t ever take anything for granted. Look to this generation for your example. Their patriotism and sacrifice we can’t repay, but we can continue to uphold, and they deserve our respect.”

Keynote speaker Air Force Capt. Russ Whittaker recalled the many men and women before him who served, including those in the audience, and “those in line behind me, who stretch far behind the horizon. I am proud to stand in that line.”

He thanked the families of those who served as well as those who are and were in the military.

“I am proud to be a veteran like many of you and many of those who have gone before me,” he said. “I ask, ‘how can one honor a veteran best?’and I believe that is in two ways—first, with the flag and second, with song.”

At the conclusion of the program, the students gave red, white and blue ribbons of thanks along with homemade cards to the veterans and families.

World War II veteran Newel Ward was one of those veterans.

“I was drafted for basic training in California and was assigned to an anti-aircraft gun outfit,” he said. “Radar was new then, a secret, and I was trained in North Carolina.”

Ward, who left behind his wife and baby girl, said he was shipped to Germany where he supplied annunciation and food to the front lines.

“It wasn’t just driving the trucks,” Ward said. “The Germans would stretch pieces of lines across the road so if we didn’t have our windshields up, we’d get decapitated. They’d also plant bombs in the road.” 

On one trip where he was to lead the convoy to the front line, a bomb exploded in the road and sent him flying “clear out of my jeep. Luckily, I didn’t get too beat up— just my legs, arms and back. They wanted to send me to the hospital, but I wanted to stay with my unit so they wrapped me up, and I went straight back to work,” he said.

Ward said he realized there were worse jobs than his, so he didn’t want to get shipped elsewhere and leave his buddies. 

He served two years in Germany and was supposed to go to the Pacific when the war ended.

When he was discharged, he learned he earned battle ribbons, medals and battle stars, but he has yet to be awarded them.

“It was hard for me to be gone,” he said. “It was hard to be there, but it was good for our country. This program brought back a lot of memories and tears.”