Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
Valwood Middle School rang true for red, white and blue on Thursday morning as 130 veterans filled the Godwin Holmes Arts Center on the Valwood Campus to watch the annual celebration honoring veterans.
Valwood Headmaster Dr. Darren Pascavage opened the ceremony with a story.
In 1992, he was in college and lived with a man from Kenya who watched that year’s election very closely.
"He said, ‘When this is over, no one gets shot?’" Pascavage recalls.
Confused, Pascavage answered no.
"He said, “My country is democratic, but democratic in a different way,’" said Pascavage.
In South Africa, people are intimidated and even killed for their choices.
"We take for granted sometimes the things that freedom grants us," said Pascavage.
The inspirational message was fitting considering the recent election and the perfect introduction for "The Star Spangled Banner", sung by a stage full of students, some in military hats, uniforms and jumpsuits.
The national anthem, adopted in 1931, has transcended generations of veterans and its lyrics mean many things to many
people. As one student pointed out, veterans aren't just soldiers, they are moms, dads and children.
The Valwood students did more than just wave some flags and sing some songs, they transported the audience back to the time of World War II and "dropped in" on an old USO show.
First was a little lady named Katherine Godbee hoping to catch a train to Chattanooga. In military dress and holding a suitcase and phone, Godbee with a large voice belted out "Chattanooga Choo Choo".
Then the iconic Andrew Sisters — played by Addy Perlman, Evelyn Howell and Danielle Dunmon — danced and sang in perfect harmony the 1940's hit, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy".
Mary Peeples channeled the famous Vera Lynn and sang the popular WWII hit "White Cliffs of Dover".
Picking up from WWII, the students transported the crowd to the time of Vietnam and there they found two young hippies in tie-dye shirts. With long blonde hair and guitars, the duo of Isabel Langdale and Ashley Manwell sang the still famous song, "Blowin' in the Wind".
While songs of patriotism, war and freedom rang through the arts center, the time travel was brought to a halt and the show changed its focus to the great American symbol of the American flag. While waving miniature flags in the air, the stage of students sang "Grand Old Flag".
While the American flag is a symbol of the sacrifice all veterans make for their country, the program honored each branch individually.
Army vets in the crowd stood as "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" was sung, Navy vets stood to the tune "Anchors Aweigh", Coast Guard vets stood to the "Coast Guard Song", Marines stood for "The Marine's Hymn" and several Air Force vets were taken back to the wild blue yonder as the students sang "The Air Force Anthem".
The upbeat tone of the program changed as the students sang "God Bless America" and Godbee offered a prayer.
"Dear God, please bless America," Godbee prayed. "Without America, there is no freedom."
Some in the crowd were brought to tears as the students sang "God Bless America". The students on stage joined arms as a symbol of solitude and drew a standing ovation from the crowd of veterans, parents and local dignitaries.
Valwood’s veteran celebration began four years ago when the eighth grade literature classes wrote letters to World War II veterans as part of their study of “The Diary of Anne Frank”. Many of the students received letters from the veterans in return.
One veteran, Rev. John McGowan, drove to Valwood Middle School to meet the young man who had written him a letter. McGowan was so touched by the child’s letter that he read it with tears running down his face because no one had ever thanked him for his service in the war.
After the students witnessed the impact their appreciation had on the veterans, the eighth grade classes then decided to present a Veterans Day program in honor of the veterans with whom they corresponded. The eighth graders have continued the tradition as this year’s celebration honored it’s fifth year.