PRIEST RIVER — The military men and women who serve and protect the United States come from all walks of life.
“They are parents, children, grandparents, friends, neighbors and even assistant principals,” said Priest River Elementary’s student body vice president Karli Olmo, referring to the school’s own Michael Jenkins in the latter part of the statement, and adding that veterans are a “very important part of our communities.”
A number of veterans, who served a combined 226 years in the various branches of the military, attended the school’s annual Veterans Day event on Friday. During the assembly, each of the veterans received a handmade “Thank you for your service” card, and heard from the student leadership on the history and importance of Veterans Day.
Student body president Charlotte Stockton said Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919.
“Veterans Day occurs on Nov. 11 each year to honor the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 that signaled the end of World War I,” added Meygan Naccarato, student body secretary for PRE.
Armistice Day became a federal holiday in 1938, and in 1954, former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day, the girls said.
“Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans, living or dead, but especially gives thanks to the living veterans who served during war or peacetime,” Charlotte said.
This year’s sixth-grade class at PRE had a special assignment as well. Each student was tasked with writing a short essay on one of the five branches of the U.S. military, and the winners read theirs to the students, staff and veterans gathered at the assembly.
Karlie was one of the essay winners for her brief history of the U.S. Coast Guard, which she said was founded on Aug. 4, 1790, to guard the nation’s “vast” coastline and provide vital life-saving missions. This year, she said, the Coast Guard engaged in more than 730 active rescues. The more than 41,000 active service members in the Coast Guard serve as the United State’s first responders, Karlie said, responsible for providing America’s economic, national and border security.
Elijah Carr won the contest for his essay on the U.S. Air Force, which he said is the youngest branch of the military, recently celebrating its 72nd birthday. Today, there are 310,000 men and women actively serve in the Air Force, as well as more than 71,000 in the reserves, he said. The With its five core missions of air and space superiority, global intelligence, global mobility, global strike, and command and control, the Air Force is a “force to be reckoned with,” Elijah said.
While the Air Force is the youngest branch of the military, sixth grader Karsyn Dement said the U.S. Army is actually older than the country, having been established in 1775. Karsyn described some of the basic branches of the Army, including infantry, calvary, artillery, engineers, signal corps and logistics. There are currently 472,692 men and women actively serving in the Army, Karsyn said.
Gabe Gonzalez said his dad was among the 180,000 active duty members of the U.S. Marine Corps. Gabe said his father served for 12 years and one of the hardest parts of the job during those years was getting his sergeant out of a house where grenades were being dropped. His father is a Purple Heart recipient, he said.
Kahnor Johnson wrote about the U.S. Navy in his essay, detailing the branch’s mission to “maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”
As did each of his classmates who read their essays on Friday representing each military branch, Kahnor expressed his appreciation to all veterans.
“Thank you to all of the men and women who are serving or have served their country,” Kahnor said.
To finish up the program, the PRE students sang some patriotic songs, including “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “America the Beautiful.” Before departing, however, fifth-grade teacher Chris Naccarato had a surprise for the school that dated back 10 years.
During a Veterans Day event at the school on Nov. 12, 2009, a Betsy Ross flag — an early design of the U.S. flag named for early an American upholsterer and flag maker — was presented to PRE. In an attempt to get it framed, he said, it somehow got misplaced. He came upon it last spring, he said, and realized it was a project that needed to be finished.
With the help of the school’s PTO, he was recently able to get the frame built and the flag put inside it, which he presented to all in attendance on Friday, with the help of Jenkins and Joseph English from VFW Post 2909, who serves as Priest River Veterans Honor Guard commander.
“It will be on display at the front of the school for all to enjoy and see,” Nacarrato said.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.