Students at Oak Harbor Elementary School raised their voices in support of all veterans and active duty military personnel during the school’s annual Veterans Day performance, held last Tuesday in the school gymnasium.
The packed auditorium overflowed with students, teachers, parents and special guests from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and community organizations like the Oak Harbor Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“We’re so excited to have so many people here for this wonderful annual event,” said music teacher Kathryn Wright. “This program is a tribute to all the veterans who have fought for our country in wars or who are serving today.”
Presentation of colors by a NAS Whidbey Island color guard was accompanied by the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem.
Active duty personnel participated by sharing information about each branch of the Armed Forces, separated by performances of patriotic songs from third and fifth grade students.
American standards such as “America, the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” were popular with many members of the audience who sang along. The last song, “You Are Our Heroes,” was a tribute to 9/11.
“What can you say to a hero?” the children sang. “We can say ‘thank you, thank you!’”
Personnel from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139 said the message was heart-warming.
“It feels good to be appreciated,” said Airman Joshua Brown. “After all the sacrifices, all that we do, just knowing there are people thinking about us feels really good.”
More than half the students at the school are from active duty families. Programs like the one last week are a great way for children to connect with the community, but also for children of those military members who are deployed to have that military connection with other active duty personnel who can relate to the feelings generated by separation, Wright said.
“Sometimes it’s hard being a military kid,” said Cmdr. Billy Fraser, executive officer of VAQ-139. “It’s tough when you move, but it’s nice to know there are people you can turn to, like teachers, principals and school staff.”
Fraser made a point of thanking school employees for being there for their children during deployments or moves.
“I’m here to express our gratitude,” he said. “You make our lives easier.”
“It’s critical to involve military and community members in these programs,” said Wright, who is herself a Navy spouse. “It connects the kids to what Mom and Dad do for a living.”
Plus it gives students background on what a veteran is and why the nation honors them, she said.
VAQ-139 is one of Oak Harbor Elementary’s partners in education, meaning the squadron helps with various activities and projects, which is a huge and important commitment, according to principal Dorothy Day.
“They make their presence known and the kids get to see that connection to the school,” she said.