‘Respect, honor, and appreciation’ was the theme of the annual Veterans Day Celebration at West Hartford’s Charter Oak International Academy.
By Ronni Newton
The entire Charter Oak International Academy community gathered in the auditorium Friday morning, the ceremony moved indoors due to bitterly cold temperatures and strong winds, to honor all veterans – those in the audience, relatives of students, and all who serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces.
West Hartford Public Schools and town officials joined the Charter Oak community in paying tribute, with many veterans joining the student speakers on the stage for the ceremony.
An audible gasp could be heard from the audience as bagpiper Patrick Whalen processed down the aisle of the auditorium, the stirring sounds of the instrument filling the air.
The 103rd Airlift Honor Guard followed, carrying a flag to raise on the flagpole that had been brought inside the auditorium just for Friday’s ceremony.
Charter Oak parent and U.S. Army Reserve member Juan Cruz sang the National Anthem, but the rest of the program was led by the students, with Cruz’s own daughter, Olivia, in the role of emcee.
Student Zeralem Dires read a Veterans Day poem, followed by a parade of students from all grade levels who shared their personal remarks about why they appreciate veterans.
“Because of you I can appreciate …” each student began, adding a wide variety of thoughtful responses in their own words that included “having my family and being able to go to school with my friends … being able to have new glasses so I can see better … having my dad so he can protect my country … my grandfather for serving in the Navy … that I can go places and feel safe … playing sports like soccer, baseball, and basketball … having a safe home to live with, in honor of my great grandpa who fought in World War II … that I am equal to all others and I don’t judge others … my little brother and me … as a girl that I have the freedom to be whatever I want unlike some girls in other countries … that I can go to school and learn because in some countries children cannot go to school.”
First grade teacher Alison Collins’ class sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” and Maylin Sussman read a quote from John F. Kennedy.
The program concluded with a community singing of “America the Beautfiul” led by the fifth grade chorus, which circled the auditorium, and the placing of a wreath by students Eden Gonzalez, Aliyah Oliveira, and Steson Whitfield.
Veterans, families, and other guests remained at Charter Oak after the ceremony and enjoyed a special breakfast.
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