Staff and students at Red Oak Elementary celebrated Veterans Day through a long list of patriotic songs, pledges, plays and touching words through the likes of essays and poems.

Coordinated by the school’s music teacher Deborah Sikes, the Veterans Day Commemoration was organized as a way for the students to show appreciation to those troops who have fought for their freedom and to those who are now fighting the war on terror.

“The kids really did an excellent job and we’re extremely proud of them,” Sikes said. “It take a little time to get everything together but they really did a great job.”

Principal Rachel Kistner welcomed everyone in attendance, which was followed by the “Pledge of Allegiance” and the “Pledge to the Texas Flag.”

Following the “Star Spangled Banner,” veterans were recognized as kindergartners passed out handmade cards filled with words of thanks.

More than 620 students participated in the program, which included the reading of poems from students and music selections from all students.

Some of the songs were “Armed Service Medley,” “Old Navy,” “God Bless America,” “Free Like Me,” “America, I Give My Thanks to You” and others with a patriotic theme.

The poems read were “Veteran’s Day Introduction,” “A Salute to Veterans,” “O Flag of Our Union” and “United We Stand.”

Some veterans present said that just the thought of what the children were giving of themselves brought a sense of warmth to their hearts.

“It was really touching to see all the children up there singing their hearts out,” said eight-year veteran Jaime Barrera as he wiped tears from his eyes. “It’s just amazing to see how the students put their all into it.”

“I come to the program every year and I just thought it was great,” said Raymond Trojacek, a Vietnam veteran. “The whole thing was beautiful to me and I think Ms. Sikes did a wonderful job with those children.”

Others say they were just blown away from the children’s participation.

“It’s touching to see our children sing for the troops that have served and for the troops that are serving right now,” Yllian Nava said. “I have three children enrolled here and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

“This is my second year coming to this program and I’m just amazed each year at the efforts put forth from these kids,” Ema Berrera said, as tears formed in her eyes. “To some and to us, this touches home because we’ve lost loved ones fighting for our freedom. There are so many who may feel that Veterans Day is not that big of a deal but for us, it definitely touches home. Some of these kids do not even know the meaning of Veterans Day but to see them up there singing their little hearts out is just amazing.”

During the program, fourth-grade essay-winner Julia Almaraz read her essay titled, “What Does Veteran’s Day Mean to Me?”

“Veterans are important to me because they have fought and are fighting for our freedom,” Almaraz said. “We have Veterans Day to honor and appreciate our veterans. My father served 10 years in the Army and my grandfather is a Vietnam veteran and I’m very proud of them.”

Almaraz’s parents, Cesar and Monica, said they were extremely overwhelmed with the program and even more ecstatic with the fact that their daughter won the fourth-grade class essay-writing contest.

“This program made me feel really proud that I served my country and it actually brought tears to my eyes when I heard my daughter read the essay,” Cesar said, with Monica adding, “I’m glad the school does something like this to honor our veterans and I appreciate their gratitude toward all the vets. I really appreciate it because my father and husband are veterans. Overall, it was a very good program.”

In the midst of all the cheering and clapping, there was a brief moment of silence with sophomore Caleb Cox playing “Taps.”

The entire cafeteria was packed with parents, grandparents, friends and veterans who showed their support toward the students.

“The turn out was great and we had a lot of veterans here representing all branches of the services,” added assistant principal Sharon Graves.

Kistner credited Sikes with the outcome of the program.

“The program was just amazing and Ms. Sikes was just as amazing,” Kistner said. “She’s a pro at creating such a program and we’re very proud of her. She adds something new to it each year, which is always good for the kids.”

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