The children of East Elementary celebrated and honored those who have served in the United States Armed Forces with the school’s annual Veterans Day assembly on Friday.
The assembly, which was led by music teacher Elizabeth Dano, included a presentation of colors by the Coast Guard Base Kodiak Color Guard team, a short speech by Lt. Commander Tom Huntley and a chance for the students to meet some local vets.
As the children entered East Elementary’s gymnasium at around 12:30 p.m., the Liberty Bell march was played over the intercom. The assembly began with the presentation of colors and the pledge of allegiance.
Kindale Olvera, a Storekeeper 3rd Class at Base Kodiak, was part of the team presenting colors and explained that it’s a ceremony they perform at many different events, including Independence Day, Kodiak’s annual Crabfest and football games.
“But it’s especially important on Veterans Day,” she said. “It’s an honor thing and a respect thing.”
Following this, President Donald Trump’s Veteran’s Day Proclamation was read by one of the teachers and Dano led the children in a rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Huntley, whose daughter is a student at East Elementary, then delivered a brief speech on the nature of service and sacrifice.
“Sacrifice is for service,” he said, “and that service is for our country.”
Huntley’s speech touched on how the children can use those ideas in their own lives.
“I want to talk about the kind of service you don’t have to wear a uniform for. You can serve your school. You can serve your family,” he said, before adding, “I’m proud to wear the uniform of our country, and I’m proud to be here with you today.”
After Huntley’s speech, a microphone was passed around the room to all of the veterans who felt comfortable introducing themselves, most of whom have children who attend the school or spouses who are faculty members. Each of the veterans stood, explained in what capacity they had served and pointed out any family members they had in the room. All of the veterans in attendance were given a red carnation to honor their service.
Following this, the children were asked to indicate if they were related to a veteran and the majority of the students raised their hands. Then the entire school was asked to give a show of support to the veterans, which came in the form of raucous applause and cheers.
At the end of the assembly, Dano reminded the students to thank any veteran they encountered for their service over the coming weekend. All who attended the assembly received a Buddy Poppy on the way out, and students were then allowed to go and speak with some of the local vets.
One of the veterans present was Dale Rice, who served for 21 years as a Senior Damage Controlman in the Coast Guard. Rice had also spent 35 years as a volunteer firefighter, including 29 years as fire chief. He said it’s always nice to see the children being made aware of military service.
“The Vietnam War wasn’t very popular,” he said. “When we came home, some people wouldn’t even talk to us. So tributes like this, we really do appreciate it.”
East Elementary has been holding Veterans Day assemblies for more than 10 years.
Dano, who organizes the assemblies, said that for a place like Kodiak in particular, it’s important for the children to be reminded of the significance of military service and to be given the chance to thank local veterans.
“The Coast Guard is such a huge, big presence here, so a lot of the kids here are directly related to veterans,” she said. “Everyone has their own veteran story.”
One student, 9-year-old Kalin Reed, brought the fatigues one of her grandfathers wore and a pea coat that belonged to the other.
“When I hear the word veteran, I think of people in the army and I think of my grandad who was in the army,” she said.
Reed expressed gratitude at having been able to meet some of the local veterans that day.
“I gave one of them a fist bump,” she said.
Another veteran in attendance was Major David Davis, who was a lieutenant in the Alaska State Defense Force and who had also volunteered as a crossing guard at East Elementary between 2000 and 2007.
“To keep it simple ... for me, it’s just a moment to stop and say thank you to those who are serving,” he said.