‘Home of the free because of the brave’ 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 by the flagpole outside the brand new school building Friday to honor all veterans – those in the audience, relatives of students, and all who serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces.
Honored guests included Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier, State Reps. Andy Fleischmann and Joe Verrengia, Mayor Shari Cantor, Minority Leader Dennise Hall, Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore, Board of Education Chair Mark Ovemyer-Velazquez, and other town and school officials.
The ceremony began with the stirring sounds of the bagpipe as Patrick Whalen circled the crowd. Michael DeLuca and Pat Harrell, member of the American Legion’s 103rd Airlift Honor Guard, raised and saluted the flag.
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.
Fifth grader Marianna Temponi, who served as emcee, said the Veterans Day celebration sends a “message to all our veterans that we will never forget them or the sacrifices they made to protect our freedom.”
Jayme Kline read a Veterans Day poem, followed by a parade of students from all grade levels who spoke about bravery – the theme of the program. “I am brave …” each student began, adding responses in their own words that included “trying new things each year … reading chapter books … swing high on the swings … am not afraid to get a shot at the doctors … I sleep with the lights out … when I make new friends … not afraid of what others do.”
After Dawn Hyland’s first grade class sang “Five Brave Soldiers,” twins Isaac and Elias Drummond took the stage for a tribute to Connie Nappier, to whom this year’s Veterans Day program was dedicated.
Connie Nappier, the father of State Treasurer Denise Nappier, passed away in December. The World War II veteran and former member of the Tuskegee Airmen “was a friend of Charter Oak and will always be remembered for the brave man he was,” the Drummonds said as they presented Denise Nappier with an award honoring her father.
Denise Nappier gave her deep thanks to all the veterans who were at the program, and praised Charter Oak for its wonderful learning environment.
“Never let opportunity arrive and find yourself unprepared,” Denise Nappier advised the students.
“To my father who I miss dearly and to all the veterans I say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
The program concluded with “Thank a Veteran Poem” read by Jarrett Moster, placing of the wreath at the base of the flagpole by students Ruby Hughes, Arnav Kandal, and Arycelli Ruffasto, and the singing of “America” by the fifth grade chorus.
Veterans, families, and other guests remained at Charter Oak after the ceremony and enjoyed a special breakfast.
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