Generations of veterans sat silently in appreciation as children of all ages sang patriotic songs Thursday at Aaron Parker Elementary School. As the children’s voices rose into the air, so did dozens of small American flags, as performers and audience members commemorated the service of military men and women across the country.
The school’s Veteran’s Day program is meant to teach children about the sacrifices veterans make daily and to encourage patriotism, said Courtney Malone, Aaron Parker music teacher.
“It’s really important to me to expose them to patriotic music, as that’s kind of a lost art,” Malone said. “It’s my job to instill those values in the kids.”
The students worked hard to prepare and practiced many hours. They did a great job, Malone said.
The program featured performances from the Aaron Parker Elementary Choir, a pinning completed by the student council and National Elementary Honors Society, a speech by local veteran Johnny Williams and a performance of “Taps” by Jerron Newberry with the North Lamar High School band. A slideshow featuring photos and biographies of local veterans ran throughout the program.
Aaron Parker Elementary staff also welcomed and thanked the veterans, including Principal Kristin Hughes, who led a moment of silence for those who had lost their lives in service.
Williams gave a short keynote speech, reminiscing on his time spent in the Navy from 1966 to 1969. He worked as a fire control technician aboard a Navy destroyer during the Vietnam War.
“There is no better honor in your life than to stand up and say, ‘I served,’” Williams said. “I served my country, I saluted my flag, I went where they sent me and I did what I was told to do. And I gave my all.”
To see the children singing the songs and pinning the badges onto fellow veterans was “awe-inspiring and heartwarming,” Williams said.
“It’s very meaningful,” he said. “When I came back from Vietnam, we didn’t get a welcome home. It was a very unpopular conflict. Across the country, you’re getting to see non-military people understand that and thank us for our service now.”
Malone organizes the program every year and coaches the children through their performances. They always perform the Armed Forces Medley and the national anthem, she said.
“It’s really more for the veterans than for them because I can’t tell you how many times a veteran has approached me after the program and told me what it meant to them to hear a small child singing their song or these patriotic songs,” Malone said.