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Draper Journal

Veterans Honored, Given Thanks by Schools

Dec 07, 2015 10:14AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama

Draper - “Dear Honored Veteran, thank you for your service and thank you for leaving your family to keep us safe…”

Letters glued on construction paper stars were given to about 80 invited veterans and active military as their names were announced at American Preparatory Academy’s 10th annual Veterans’ Day program Nov. 11. 

“By honoring veterans, and thinking a little more deeply about how important veterans are, we can appreciate a little more about how important our freedoms are,” APA Executive Director Carolyn Sharette said. “American Prep understands the price paid for our freedom and we can’t teach this lesson unless you, veterans, come and we hear your stories and see your faces, and for this, we thank you.”

Tracey Webb, of Sandy, served in both the Marines and Navy and her husband, Mark, currently is deployed with the Army in Afghanistan.

“We decided to have our kids attend this school because it holds dear the same strong American values we have,” she said.

The program included hearing from essay winners — this year, expanded from three winners to five top writers: sixth-grader Sanjana Sujeet, who thanked the veterans for sacrificing for everyone, even people they didn’t know; sixth-grader Mckinnley Hansen, who said it was hard for her dad to miss family celebrations while deployed; sixth-grader Isabella Hanks who said those who battled for everyone’s freedoms, should receive everyone’s utmost gratitude; and fourth-grader Saathvik Pai, who outlined his typical day compared that to someone in active duty’s and the sacrifices made.

Fourth-grader Gabe Berry talked about his dad, 1st Sgt. Jon Berry with the National Guard, who was dressed in uniform in attendance, and of his 16 years of service as a Thai, Spanish and English translator. His dad volunteered to serve because he loves America and “it felt like the right thing to do.” Gabe said that although his dad had been gone half of his life, it’s “pure happiness when he comes home.”

Throughout the program, classes sang songs, such as “America the Beautiful,” featuring first-grade soloist Faith Wareing; “This is My Country;” “America,” featuring third-grade soloist Max Merrill and the “Armed Forces Salute,” where veterans stood when their branch of military’s song was sung, included Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Adams, who while in on leave from base in Norfolk, Va., came to see his second-grade nephew Brody Bennett who attends American Prep.

National Guard Staff Sgt. Josh Kestler, came to support his three kids in the school program and heard his sixth-grader and the class recite “Things that Make a Soldier Great.”

APA staff member Dee Dee Darby-Duffin, along with fifth-grade soloists Jade Thurston and Adam Christensen and the fifth-grade coir sang “God Bless the USA” and “God Bless America,” before they were joined by all the students and staff standing to honor and sing “Thank-You, Soldiers.”

Draper Park Middle School held its 11th annual Veterans’ Day Breakfast on Nov. 6, where veterans ate with their families.

Sixth-grader Kira Rhay ate with her dad, Sgt. Brian Rhay, and their neighbors sixth-grader Riley Stevens, and her dad, Marine Staff Sgt. Rick Stevens.

“It’s really cool when my dad tells stories of eating a rattlesnake during survival camp at training in the middle of nowhere,” said Kira, whose grandfather was a retired colonel in the Army.

Riley said she was proud of her dad, who has served for the country along with his dad and grandfather, all in the Army.

They, and others in attendance, listened to Utah National Guard Colonel Larry Schmidt speak and heard “Patriotic Trilogy” and “American Spirit March” by Draper Park Concert Band under the direction of Marcus Voght.

Some English and language arts classes asked students to write letters to veterans, which were bound and distributed to veterans. Three students, sixth-grader Addie Morgan, sixth-grader Zack Geertsen and eighth-grader Arturo Aguero, then read their own letters at the breakfast.

“I’ve always felt patriotic about the United States,” said Arturo, who’s dad is Mexican and his mother was born in El Salvador. “I’m grateful and I try to share that. If I wasn’t living here, I wouldn’t have the chance to have a good education, play sports or be able to thank the U.S. military for all they have done.”

At St. John the Baptist Middle School, students wrote thank-you notes to veterans, then displayed the notes in the form of an American flag in the main hall. Students also brought pictures of family members and friends who served or are serving in the military that were displayed to honor their service.

Their memorial remained on display through November to celebrate military family month.

“We wanted to honor those families,” Nevah Stevenson, school director of advancement, said.

Afterward, students planned to deliver the cards to veterans at the Veterans Administration Hospital, Fisher House and Valor House in appreciation of their service.