Valdosta Daily Times

November 13, 2013

Valwood veterans celebration

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Songs of patriotism, honor and pride filled the halls at the seventh annual Valwood Middle School veterans’ celebration.

Through the performance, students at Valwood were able to pay special tribute to veterans everywhere.

 "The Valwood Middle School students are performing today to honor our heroes, remember their achievements, their courage, their dedication and to say thank you for their sacrifices," said Dr. Darren Pascavage, Valwood's Headmaster

The ceremony opened with all 111 students, some dressed in military uniforms, some dressed as hippies, and others in red, white and blue, singing "The Star Spangled Banner", "This Land is Your Land" and "America, The Beautiful."

Students then took the audience back in time with hits from the day including "Rosie, the Riveter," which had the students dressed in themed costumes including drills and bandanas, and "Gimme Some Skin, My Friend."

Moving forward in the ceremony, students said a special thanks to each branch of the armed forces. As the students sang each branch's song, men and women who had served or are currently serving those branches stood to be recognized. Men and women from the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Air Force were represented in the crowd and as they all stood, each received applause and thanks from those in attendance.

The ceremony concluded with all of the students performing "Amazing Grace," "God Bless America" and "God Bless the U.S.A." As the students began the chorus of "God Bless the U.S.A.", everyone in the audience stood in respect.

Following the performances, each of the 120 veterans were joined by a middle school student who ate breakfast with them and spoke with them about their service. The students will then take the interviews and turn them into a paper about their veteran.

Nick White, an eighth grader who has performed in the veteran's ceremony for three years, spoke with Arthur Brown, who served in the United States Navy during World War II, from January 1943 to February 1946.

"I think it is really good to meet and honor our veterans for what they have done. We have what we have because of what they did for us," said White.  

During his time of service, Brown was only 16 years old. He was able to serve on the USS Narwahl, USS R-18 and the German U-530. Brown shared photos from his service with White, and the two spoke about Brown's memories from his service.

"I think the ceremony was 100 percent perfect. I really enjoyed it. This is my first time being here," said Brown.

Gabby Moss, a seventh grader who has performed in the ceremony twice, interviewed Roger Joyal. Joyal served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring last year.

"This is the first year I have been. It was an outstanding program. It really teaches tradition and that is what we need to keep ahold of. I also think it's important because it shows our younger generation a level of respect for the older generation," said Joyal.

With ceremonies like this, it is important for students to remember that they are honoring others. Vallye Blanton, who has been the director of the program since the beginning, makes sure to instill that in each of the students.

Blanton said, "The students work very hard on this, we begin working in September. It is important for our children to learn to appreciate our veterans.”