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Faith Elementary students learn the meaning of Veterans Day

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

FAITH — Faith Elementary School held its 10th annual Veterans Day observance Thursday, inviting veterans from the community to be honored with an assembly and breakfast.

This year’s celebration had the largest turnout yet, according to Madelyne Burris, a teacher who has been helping organize the observance for the past three years.

“We got the word out through Facebook, classroom Dojo, and word of mouth. A&L (a local convenience store) helped as well. Faith is a small community. If you tell one person, it gets around. The first year we had five veterans attend. This year is the biggest crowd.”

The school emailed school board members and the superintendent and invited them as well.

“It gives me cool chills to hear our youngest students sing the words ‘God Bless America,’” said Superintendent Lynn Moody. “To see their pride is so heart-touching. I loved the artwork and student letters posted with words of gratitude. I also really enjoyed watching the eyes of our students when they introduced me to their family member at breakfast –many of whom were their grandfathers.”

The celebration started in the school auditorium. After student council members welcomed visitors, Principal Denita Dowell-Reavis called for veterans to stand as the name of their branch of the armed services was called. About 30 veterans stood and received applause from teachers, students, parents and staff members.

A brief assembly included a first- and second-grade choir singing “American Tears” and “Liberty and Justice.” The chorus of the song included, “For the heroes, for the patriots, for the soldiers, for all the pioneers, I will always be an American and I’ll always cry American tears.”

Second-graders seemed to understand the purpose of the day’s observance.

“We are doing it as Veterans Day trying to honor people who have been in the military: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and thank them for fighting for our country,” said Zayne Peoples. “Thanks to them, we have freedom and we can vote.”

Caden Hawkins was one of the soloists on “American Tears.”

“I’ve never done it before,” Caden said. “It was cool. I was a little nervous before I started.”

Brooklyn Greene, the other soloist, chimed in.

“We like to honor veterans, and we appreciate it when they fight for our country,” she said.

After the assembly, everyone filed into the school cafeteria, where separate buffet tables served veterans and students. Teachers had prepared breakfast casseroles for the veterans. Most students piled their plates high with doughnuts.

Marine veteran Robert Morgan enjoyed a good breakfast.

“My neighbor invited me,” Morgan said. “She knew I was a veteran and asked me to come. This is a great school; my grandkids went here.”

Thomas Williams, also a Marine veteran, attended with his granddaughter Brooklyn Pearce, a fourth-grader.

“When I got out of boot camp at Parris Island, I went straight to Iran,” Williams said. “I was assigned to the USS Iwo Jima. We were out six months. We shot down a Lebanese jet and went back. It was tough. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but it turned out OK.”

Dowell-Reavis was pleased with this year’s turnout.

“It’s always a very moving day and a good lesson for the kids,” she said. “It’s a big world out there, and this event helps our kids see beyond Faith, N.C.”

Following breakfast, many veterans visited classrooms so the students could ask them questions. Carie Hayworth’s class had three veterans join them: Bill Jobert, Tom Brown and Charles “Butch” Powell, all Army veterans. Both Jobert and Powell served in Vietnam.

Brown described his experience to the students.

“I was drafted in the Army in 1966,” Brown said. “They ask you to go, and you go. That’s what you’re supposed to do. I went to Salisbury to the bus station and took the bus to Charlotte.

“When I was in basic training, I got to come home every weekend because my father was sick,” he continued. “They call that a ‘hardship.’ In basic training, I didn’t think I could make it. First they put up a schedule just like you have schedules here. It said, ‘5 a.m.: Run five miles.’ I thought, ‘I can’t run five miles. I can’t even run around this building.’

“My name is Brown, so I had to be in front. Some guys who smoked cigarettes fell out. I didn’t fall out because I didn’t smoke. Finally, I realized I could do it.”

Hayworth seized the opportunity to relate Brown’s story to things the students have been studying.

“What kind of mindset did he have in the beginning?”

The students called back, “Fixed mindset.”

Then she asked, “When did his mindset change to a growth mindset?”

The students called back, “When he ran five miles.”

Then Hayworth asked the students to brainstorm about character traits necessary to be in the military. The students suggested respect, courage, faith and hard work.

Many eyes in the classroom blinked back tears when Gage Ledbetter introduced his grandfather, “Butch” Powell.

“This is my grandfather,” Gage said. “He used to be in the military; he fought in a couple of wars. He’s my favorite part of my family.”

Powell was a bit emotional as he hugged Gage. The students clapped.

Teacher Tiffini Sellers is a Navy veteran who served from 1993 through 1997.

“For the kids, I think this may help them understand their grandparents and parents a little better,” Sellers said. “I grew up in the military, so it was a constant for me, but in this community they don’t see military service so much. I think this helps the children understand the meaning, especially the older generation. They understand about war.”

Fifth-grader Brady McIntyre summarized it all.

“We have been celebrating Veterans Day for the veterans who have been in war and served this country,” Brady said. “I think it went well. Last year, we didn’t have as many veterans as this year. That’s an improvement. I think the veterans feel happy because they’ve had a delicious breakfast with us, and they feel like they have our support.”

 

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