Tomorrow is Veterans Day, always a special occasion of remembrance and gratitude around the nation. But since Saturday is not a school day, many at DMPS paid tribute to the men and women who served our country a day early.
Observances around the district included several traditional ones and at least one groundbreaker that is likely to join the ranks of annual ceremonies.
We already posted photos of the Hillis Elementary salute to the vets on Wednesday.
Goodrell Middle School always does itself proud and this year was no exception. The Wednesday assembly there featured information about the famous battleship, USS Iowa.
Friday featured more events than we could get to.
Willard Elementary invited neighborhood vets to school where they were applauded in the hallways and welcomed into classrooms to share their experiences, accept students’ thanks, and answer questions about the honor and sacrifice of military service.
Studebaker Elementary again served breakfast and staged a red, white and blue assembly with vets as the guests of honor.
Students at Weeks Middle School
Park Avenue Elementary’s event has been going on since at least 2005. Students become pen pals with veterans and meet up with them to break bread (cookies, actually) after a rousing musical assembly that makes a point of singling out all five branches of America’s armed forces. Two students spoke at the event on behalf of their parents, members of the military who were away on deployment.
North High, which held its 6th annual Veterans Day assembly, is uniquely suited – as in uniformed – to recognize veterans. The school’s Marine Corps Junior ROTC program gets its dress blues on to personally escort veterans from the front door to their reserved seats of honor front and center in a packed auditorium. Singers from the school choir lend a reverent musical layer to an always dignified but emotional program.
Across town at Cowles, a Montessori school, a particular emphasis is placed on peace. The school holds an annual Peace Walk around its northwest neighborhood early in every school year.
This year, Windsor Heights Parks & Recreation Director Michelle Denkinger, who was organizing the community’s first official Veterans Day event, contacted Cowles counselor Tracy Lepeltak. She wanted schoolchildren involved and Lepeltak was all for it.
A call went out in the building for classes to volunteer for the project. Adam Egherman, who teaches a class of 4th-6th graders, was quickest to raise his hand, and his students hosted Denkinger for a series of visits to learn some military history and background. Then they extended formal invitations to some 200 vets who live in Windsor Heights. About 40 of them accepted, representing service all the way from World War II to Operation Desert Storm, and attended a luncheon and program in their honor on Friday at the Windsor Heights Community Center in Colby Park.
Cub Scout Pack 92 is headquartered at Cowles. The scouts provided a color guard and led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Each vet received a packet of personal notes and letters of thanks from Cowles students.
Jack Lufkin was on hand from the Fort Des Moines Museum and spoke about FDM’s historic role as the training site for two milestones in American military racial and gender equity: 1] The first class of African-American officer trainees in 1917 and 2] The first class of women trainees when the Women’s Army Corps was formed in 1941.
Lufkin also told the students that Veterans Day was originally established after World War I.
“This event today didn’t start at 11:00 by accident,” he said. “This federal holiday specified the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month to mark the end of what many called ‘The Great War.’ It was originally known as Armistice Day. In 1954 it was changed to Veterans Day.”
Armistice, Lufkin explained, is a fancy word not used much anymore that means truce. Or peace, if you will. Which is what all soldiers, ironically, fight for, and what Cowles Montessori is all about.