Schools across the county celebrate veterans
Students, teachers, parents and veterans watched in silence as the colored balloons lifted into the bright blue and floated away over the Muskingum River.
The Veterans Day ceremony at Harmar Elementary has concluded that way for many years, with a student releasing one balloon for each of the 11 bell tolls as they ring out while assembled classes and guests watch in the school parking lot.
Across Washington County, schools invited local veterans to come and be honored on Thursday. At Harmar, more than 20 veterans, most of them with children or grandchildren attending the school, gathered with students, teachers and parents in the gym. The children performed flag ceremonies, read essays and sang patriotic songs under the direction of music teacher Michael Tober as the light waxed and waned through the block windows of the big room.
Banners lined the walls, one for each homeroom with messages for veterans and stars inscribed with their names.
Martin Roe, 71, served two years in the Army during the Vietnam era. He has two granddaughters, Lillie and Macie Roe, at Harmar.
“This event is great,” he said before the assembly went outside for the balloon release. He has three sons who have done military service, and his father served in the Navy. In the five decades since the Vietnam War, public appreciation of veterans has changed significantly.
“The schools, they’re doing a great job anymore,” he said.
Chad Wright served four years in the Marines and now, at 37, is the county veterans service officer. A Harmar alumnus, he has a daughter, Mylee, in fourth grade there. He’s been coming to the Veterans Day assembly for nine years.
“They do a fantastic job honoring the veterans,” he said, waiting to be photographed with his daughter after the balloon release. “I feel good about it.”
Mylee said she’s glad to be a part of the event.
“We celebrate the veterans, that’s what it’s all about,” she said.
Jim Dunn, 72, served in the Navy aboard the destroyer USS Samuel B. Robinson. His grandson, Becker Van Dyke, is a fifth grader at Harmar.
“It’s a real nice thing to have an assembly like this,” Dunn said. “I’ve been here many times.”
Becker said he was one of the students involved in painting a jigsaw sculpture of boxes that when assembled onstage read, “We, the People.”
At Waterford Elementary School, students sang, read poetry and assembled round tributes to each service branch by holding up the pieces as anthems played. Members of the American Legion branch in dress uniform sang along and clapped as the images of emblems for Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines appeared.
In the hallway after the tribute, Braun Doaks, a fourth grader, said he has a grandfather who is an Army veteran.
“This is so we can tell the veterans how proud we are of them, how they saved us so we can have rights,” he said.
Weston Fairchild, a fourth grader whose great-grandfather served in the Army, said the ceremony “reminds people of who fought for them.”
Fourth-grader Atlee Good said her school “is showing our veterans how important they are.” She has an uncle who has Army service.
The festitivies continued at Phillips Elementary in Marietta, with music and appreciation.
David Keener, 57, is head custodian at Phillips Elementary School, but he also served in the Army. He works with the children every day.
“They’re doing a real good job, they always do,” he said, watching from the hallway outside the gymnasium with several other veterans. “It’s an outstanding job by the kids.”
Roy Trembly, 70, is commandant of Post 1436 of the Marine Corps League, and he and others from the post demonstrated for the students the proper way to fold a flag. “This is a good opportunity for military organizations to educate kids about the flag,” he said.
His Marine veteran colleague Gregory Mitchell, 68, said he attends the event at Phillips every year.
“They do a fantastic job, and we need more respect like this for the flag,” he said. “There’s so much tension in the world, and it’s great they take pride in veterans.”
Jocelyn Arnold, a fourth-grader, gave a speech to the veterans. She said it took two days to write, and she practiced it in an empty classroom. Her father and two uncles are veterans, she said.
“Not a lot of people think about veterans every day, so I think it’s nice to have a day to thank them,” she said.
At a glance
¯ Veterans in the U.S.: 18.5 million.
¯ Percent who are over 65: 50 percent.
¯ Percent under 35: 8 percent.
¯ Percentage of veterans who voted in the 2016 presidential election: 69.6 percent.
¯ Percentage of non-veterans who voted in the same election: 60.6 percent.
¯ Veterans living in Washington County: 5,236.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau.