Fort Bliss Soldiers partner with local schools to honor veterans
November 17, 2008
By Y. Wright
Soldiers from 1st Armored Division's 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment and 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, participated in Veterans Day celebrations as Partners in Education with local schools.
Fort Bliss partners with the El Paso Independent School District as one of more than 2,330 organizations in the community volunteering with the PIE program, which is designed to enhance, enrich, support, encourage and offer expertise to students.
This time, the students decided to give something back to the Soldiers. Among the many ceremonies around town honoring the nation's veterans were those held at MacArthur and Whitaker elementary schools.
MacArthur hosted a ceremony Nov. 5. The agenda was packed with veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, the Navy and the Air Force. Many of them served in Vietnam - one as a prisoner of war - some in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and a member of the Women's Army Corps Veterans Association.
Guest speakers from the state Veterans of Foreign War post, the El Paso County Veterans Assistance Office, the Gold Star Wives of America Inc., and the 1st Bn., 36th Inf. Regt., all paid tribute to the veterans of the past, as well as those who presently serve.
"Service doesn't mean that you're out fighting wars or arresting criminals - it just means doing what's right," said Lt. Col. Ed House, commander of the 1-36th, "and doing it for unselfish reasons."
The 62nd Army Band played the patriotic prelude, the U.S. Marine Corps presented and posted the colors while teachers sang songs of patriotism, and students read essays dedicated to their favorite military heroes.
House reminded the students and the audience that, "Today, we all live in the greatest nation in the world, because the veterans made it this way." He concluded by encouraging everyone to "be proud of who you are and be proud to be an American."
Whitaker Elementary School provided a different experience in honoring the military and the veterans on Friday. Their ceremony included speakers from the Congressional offices of both Ciro Rodriguez and Sylvestre Reyes, the Irving High School color guard and their partners in education from the 4-1 AD were on hand with static displays for the students to view and experience.
Cesar Blanco, district director for Rodriguez, expressed the congressman's honor in being invited to share in the ceremony.
"Today the elementary school gave us the opportunity to celebrate Veterans Day as well as teaching the importance of patriotism to our kids," Blanco said.
Guillermo Valenzuela, district director for Reyes, echoed those sentiments and added that he and the congressman are "honored to be able talk to the kids about honoring the men and women who wear the uniform."
After the speakers, which included poetry readings from a fifth-grader and a group of first-graders, the students went outside and visited the static displays manned by the Soldiers. They got the chance to wear some of the Soldiers' gear, learn about being a medic and see the inside of the Army trucks.
Chief Warrant Office Jovita Fenwick, the food service advisor for 4-1 AD and the PIE coordinator said she really enjoys being a part of the program because it shows the community that Fort Bliss is committed to them.
"They get to see that although we're only her for two to three years, we care about the local community, and it gives the kids an early start in understanding that the Army is here and we care."