ANNA — Veteran’s Day was celebrated by the Anna Elementary School this year as students in kindergarten through 12th grade performed a series of songs for their families and nearly 150 veterans from the area.
As the crowd entered the gymnasium, they were greeted by several walls covered in the students’ artwork, made up of stars, stripes, and glitter and the colors red, white and blue. Two tables at the gym’s entrance were set up so that the attending veterans could take home a letter thanking them for their service, as well as write their names on strips of paper that will be used to make a paper chain to be strung in the halls in their honor. The staff and students donned red, white and blue outfits to fit the theme of the day.
A crew of Boy and Girl Scouts kicked off the show by bringing in the American flag in addition to several colored flags for each of our military’s branches. The entire audience stood in a pledge of allegiance to the flag. The gym took on a somber tone as a student from the high school, Caleb Cruset, played taps on the trumpet to honor deceased veterans and fallen soldiers. After this moment of respect, the entire student body erupted into song, honoring each branch of the military in turn — Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines.
The kindergarten and first-grade students performed “Let There Be Peace.” Not only did they learn the song, but they were also taught the sign language for the words, allowing them to both sing and sign about peace on earth. The second-grade students sang “America, of Thee I Sing.” The third grade sang “We Stand United”, and the students in the fourth and fifth grades sang the “Peace Song.” During the song, some third-graders made their way through the audience delivering small gift bags to the veterans. The bags contained candy and trinkets and had the phrase, “We love our veterans,” printed across them.
Jenna Drees, the high school choir director, sang “Keep Us Safe” as the fourth and fifth grades filed out and were replaced by the middle school choir. The sixth grade performed their song, followed by the seventh and eighth grades together, singing “Freedom’s Song” and “We Are the Voice,” respectively. The high school choir performed “We Won’t Give Up.” The children all raised flags over their heads, waving them as the program came to a close. Randy Locker led the whole student body in performing “God Bless the USA.” During this, all the students stood, waving their flags, and several teachers shot off confetti canons, creating an atmosphere of patriotism.
The elementary school students, as well as the middle and high school choirs, have been preparing for the Veteran’s Day program since the beginning of the school year. Drees and Locker each soloed, as well as three students. Vincent Lewis, son of Brooke Buttitta; Ricky Bertke, son of Jeff and Jennie Bertke; and Reece Batchelder, son of Adam and Kristy Batchelder, each sang a short solo during the program. Joining from the high school were Ben Schmitmeyer, son of Gary and Kelly Schmitmeyer on the snare drum and Caleb Cruset, son of Clint Cruset, on the trumpet.
As the crowd filed out of the gymnasium at the end of the program, dozens of parents, veterans, and families of veterans stopped to tell Marlene Watkins, the elementary school’s guidance counselor, how much they loved and appreciated the work put into pulling this program together. Many people were touched by the kind things the students said about Veteran’s Day, the country and the veterans, themselves. One war veteran stated that he couldn’t help but tear up at the warmth and thanks he felt he and his fellow soldiers received from the children, as well as from the school, for what they had done. The program brought a huge audience, gathering roughly 400 people.