By Mr. Jason B. Cutshaw (USASMDC/ARSTRAT)November 10, 2011
CULLMAN, Ala. -- One local elementary school showed their appreciation for all those who have served and sacrificed to defend and keep America free.
East Elementary School in Cullman recognized more than 50 local veterans, as well as all who have served in America's military, during the school's Veterans Day program Thursday.
"I love veterans," said Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command. "They are visible reminders in our communities every day about duty, service and patriotism and the values and freedoms that our nation cherishes.
"It is appropriate that you here at East Elementary school have paused from your school week to honor and recognize these veterans and I am proud to be here," he added. "Thank you for being such a special school and thank you for being such special students."
During the ceremony, the school showed a video of what Veterans Day means to the students. After the video was presented to those in attendance, the students recognized each of the military branches by singing the service songs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
"I would say each year the program grows more and more," said East Elementary School Principal Ashley D. Wiggins Jr. about the school's Veterans Day program. "The way our students give these veterans a standing ovation and show their respect to these great Americans makes me very proud. That is what East Elementary is about, what America is all about. We thank every veteran for what they have done."
In attendance were two state leaders who were invited to the ceremony and to witness the school's patriotism as the students honored America's veterans.
"I thought today was very exciting," said Alabama State Senator Paul Bussman, who led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance. "The comments made by the students, as well as listening to them say the Pledge of Allegiance, were great. If that didn't touch your heart, I don't know what will.
"This is something East Elementary has been very good at educating children on," he added. "They are teaching civics, how to react to the flag and how to honor our veterans. It is a tremendous thing."
After the program ended, the other leader talked about how the school made a momentous weekend even more special.
"What an incredible event," said Alabama State Senator and Army Reserve Lt. Col. Phil Williams. "This school has obviously 'Got It.' They understand the value of patriotism and remembering our veterans. And not only that, I don't believe I have ever seen a school assembly where the students were so well-behaved. There is something special here.
"It is a pleasure for me to be here," he added. "I am a third-generation Army officer and my son is a brand new officer so this day means a lot to me and my family, and I am just glad I got to be here today."
One student shared her thoughts on the importance of thanking veterans.
"Today was great," said sixth grader Kennedy Wren, secretary of the student council. "I am glad we got to do something for our veterans to show how much we appreciate everything they have done for us."
Another student talked about what Veterans Day meant to her and how she appreciates all that veterans have done.
"Today's event was wonderful," said sixth grader Bailee Ponder, president of the student council. "Thank you to all the veterans for coming today and thank you for all you have done for us."