Veterans honored by elementary and high school students

Published 4:51 am Sunday, November 18, 2007

An elementary music show and senior project on Nov. 9, honored community veteran’s for their years of armed service.

Two months of preparation lead to a show for grandparents and veteran’s of the community alike to be honored via an elementary school show and a separate event at the high school gave students a chance to interact with veterans.

At West Side Elementary’s event a number of musical numbers were put on by each class at the school for their annual Grandparents and Veteran’s day Program. That day’s program began with a number of local veterans standing at the front of the auditorium where the whole audience cheered and clapped in recognition of their contributions to America.

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“This is a very small way we can try to instill some patriotism in our kids,” said West Side Elementary music teacher Cathy Henley about the program.

Then each class at the school, grades kindergarten through six, was efficiently escorted on and off the stage so they could perform their numbers.

“I call it my all school review because every child of West Side gets their chance to get on stage,” Henley said.

For some of the students it will be the only time they get on stage to perform, especially for most male students who lose interest in singing once their voices begin to change, Henley said.

Henley said she has been putting on the show since 1999. Participation in music class helps the children learn critical music skills such as harmony and keeping a beat. Kindergartners start out by learning how to keep a beat and as they progress in grades they learn new skills such as singing and note reading. As each ascending grade took the stage the musical number also progressed in complexity.

“Watching this program is like watching their annual development,” Henley said.

Other lessons the children learn include music dynamics, song structure and dancing. Henley said she also works with their listening skills as she introduces the children to classic composers such as Mozart and Chopin. After the sixth grade each student chooses whether they will continue with their music teachings by joining or not joining beginning band.

Veterans were also honored at the high school via a senior project, a Veteran’s Appreciation Day, that same day. United States History teacher Allison Wheat said she got the idea to put on these Veteran’s Appreciation events after witnessing the funeral procession for Sgt. Jerry “Chip” Burge in April. His and two other local soldier’s lost in the Iraqi Freedom War recently had their names added to Picayune’s memorial located in front of the Historic City Hall.

A former student of Wheat’s, Andy Seal, said he got the idea for his senior project from his father’s service in the National Guard under the 890th Engineer Battalion. About five years ago Seal’s father served overseas for about a year. In honor of his father Seal took up this year what Wheat started the year prior.

At the event, held in the high school library, about 45 veterans attended to enjoy food and share their war stories with students. At each table a veteran sat with students as they listened to historic stories and viewed pictures and medals from that veteran’s time in service. Seal’s goal with the project was to give his fellow students a new found respect for veterans.

Some of the stories shared with the students included tales of the Normandy invasion, and a prisoner’s multiple attempts at escape from a prisoner of war camp. That POW attempted to escape multiple times until he was finally successful.

“(His escape) went on for three or four days,” Seal said.

This year’s event grew from last year’s where only 13 veteran’s showed. Wheat said next year the event may be held in the high school gym to accommodate the event.

“Because we’ve out grown the library, which is a good thing,” Wheat said.