‘We will never forget’ was the theme of the annual Veterans Day celebration at Charter Oak International Academy in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
The entire Charter Oak International Academy community gathered in the auditorium Wednesday morning to honor all veterans – those in the audience, relatives of students, and all who serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces.
The rainy weather weather forced the ceremony to be held indoors for the first time, but did not damped the spirit of the celebration which included a bagpipe procession by Patrick Whalen and raising of the flag by the 103rd Airlift Honor Guard.
The audience included numerous veterans as invited guests, as well as Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman who made her first visit to Charter Oak International Academy.
“It’s as exciting as it could be having kids perform and give speeches from their hearts. The veterans here must be very touched,” Wyman said.
Juan Cruz, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and parent of third-grader Olivia Cruz, sang an emotional rendition of the National Anthem. “I sing how I feel it. I put my heart into it right at the moment, especially when we have so many veterans here,” Cruz said. “The children really want to remember this day.”
Although the annual ceremony was organized by staff member Janet Fournier, the assembly was mostly run by the students who honored the veterans in numerous ways. Student Michael Segar, who served as emcee, is the son of U.S. Army veteran Bob Segar. “The message today is to let all our veterans know that we will never forget them and the sacrifices they made,” Michael Segar said.
Andrew Paridy read a “Dear Veterans” poem, and 18 students from across all grade levels read personal tributes, listing their own reasons why veterans will never be forgotten. The reasons included “your bravery in battle,” “leaving your families,” “the loneliness you felt,” “the tears you did not shed,” and “you were willing to lay down your lives for us.”
Students Adriana Simao, Jaydinh Tougas, ad Alyana Vega placed a handmade wreath at the base of the flagpole.
Dawn Hyland’s first grade class sang “Veterans We Thank You,” and the fifth grade chorus sang “America” right before the mournful sounds of “Taps” was sounded by a bugler.
Veterans, families, and other guests remained at Charter Oak after the ceremony and enjoyed a special breakfast.
Although West Hartford’s schools do not close on Veterans Day, all public schools hold special events to honor veterans. Superintendent Tom Moore said that at Norfeldt Elementary School, students invite relatives who are veterans to come into the school and share their stories with the other children.
Hall High School hosts a special luncheon for veterans as well as a concert where they play the Armed Forces Medley, Moore said. “As each part of the medley is played, veterans from that branch stand. They are ages 24 to 85 or 90, and it gives me chills every year,” said Moore.
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