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The City Journals

Schools celebrate Veterans Day with new and old traditions

Nov 26, 2019 05:10PM ● By Jet Burnham

Students walk the parade route through the school with their invited guest veteran. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Westland Elementary PTA president Hillary Moser knows most students haven’t had the moving experience of attending a Veterans Day Parade. 

“I love the Veterans Day Parade that they do in Magna,” Moser said. “So, I wanted them to have their own little parade.” She organized a parade route through the school hallways for Veterans Day. Students invited family members and neighbors who are veterans to walk in the parade. Twenty-three veterans came, including West Jordan Mayor Jim Riding, who served in the Air Force.

“The kids got to march with their family members that came for the celebration which was very, very sweet,” said Principal Lauren Goodsell.

The rest of the students lined the hallways with flags and smiles, some singing patriotic songs as the veterans and their families passed by. 

“The fifth grade just had their patriotic program, so this coming on the heels of that,” Goodsell said. “It was very sweet that they just kind of spontaneously started singing.”

Goodsell said it was a good experience for students—especially the fifth graders who have been learning about U.S. history and the armed forces this year.

Led by members of Taylorsville High School’s JROTC color guard, the parade circled the school and flowed into the gymnasium. The students applauded as the veterans’ names were read aloud, and Steve Johnson played the bagpipes.

Larry Maloy, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, was invited to the parade by his three grandchildren, who attend Westland.

“I'm always glad to do this for the grandkids, and I feel fortunate they think to invite me,” Maloy said. “These are wonderful. Vietnam veterans didn't feel very welcome coming home, so these go a long way to make up for that gap.”

Justin Smith, of the U.S. Marine Corp, feels the opposite. He said events such as this stir up too many memories.

“I always have a hard time with them,” he said. “The only reason why I'm here is because my daughter asked me to be.”

Smith said from his experiences serving in Afghanistan, he can teach his three children about respect for their country.

“I can teach them about honoring those who fought and died for the freedoms that we enjoy, realizing that today's world is a lot easier than it's been and we have a military and our country to thank for that,” he said.

Moser was pleased with the turnout for this new way to celebrate Veterans Day and hopes to make it a tradition at Westland.

Hawthorn Academy has a traditional visitor every Veterans Day. For the past four years, Navy veteran Dennis Knox has been invited to speak to fourth graders about the reason for the holiday.

“I hope the kids come away with a sense of patriotism and with an understanding that freedom isn't free,” Knox said. “There's a tremendous cost.”

Knox explained the Oath of Enlistment he took when he joined the Navy and then discussed what responsibilities they as children have to their country: to be a good citizen and friend, to be honest and kind, to study history and listen to their teachers, and to encourage their parents to vote for good leaders. 

His presentation fit in what fourth grade teachers have been teaching this year.

“We want to give the kids a more global sense of their role in the community,” said fourth grade teacher Heather White.

Thirteen of the students and teachers in the fourth grade have a family member serving in the military. Knox asked about them and then shared his own stories about being responsible for the equipment aboard the admiral's ship that identified if the plane flying toward them was friend or foe.

Knox showed students a video clip about the heroic events that inspired Frances Scott Key to write the National Anthem. Another video featured Red Skelton breaking down the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance into basic concepts.

Students asked the 67-year-old questions about the dangers he faced, the food he ate aboard his ship and the reason he enlisted. His answers were Agent Orange, spaghetti and hamburgers, and because his girlfriend thought it was a good idea.