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Draper Journal

Draper students honor veterans at school ceremonies

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Julie Slama

Boy Scout and eighth-grade student Camden Stewart thanks a Marine at American Preparatory Academy’s Veterans Day ceremony. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

American Preparatory fifth-grader Adalyn Wood used to live in Virginia and liked the peacefulness of Arlington National Cemetery, where she would often see veterans pay their respect to fallen comrades. She told her classmates at the school’s Veterans Day program that a simple thank-you and a smile can be uplifting.

The great-grandfather of classmate Cecily Wagner was as a paratrooper during World War II and her uncle currently serves. At the program that honored rows of veterans, Cecily told them, “You are amazing.”

Those who served and are serving in the military were invited guests of school children and faculty, whose program featured songs and words, including those of Xzandria Miner and Daniel Detjen, who in addition to Adalyn and Cecily, were essay winners.

APA Founder Howard Headlee spoke to students about loving the holidays — Halloween for its candy, Christmas for the presents and 4th of July for the fireworks — while growing up, and even appreciating Valentine’s Day when he was in high school. 

However, he said he learned something about those holidays.

“I wouldn’t be able to celebrate those holidays without veterans and Veterans Day,” he said. “They went to some places they didn’t necessarily want to go and they did some things they didn’t necessarily want to do. Our veterans gave us a much greater gift — the gift of freedom to enjoy every minute of every day.”

That gift came with a price of missing time with family and friends and giving up individual dreams of education and careers to serve the country. Headlee then challenged students to find a way to serve — whether for the community, for the school or maybe in the future, in the military.

Among those at the ceremony was Col. Andrew Wood, who served more than 39 years with the Utah National Guard and saw conflicts in Afghanistan, South Philippians and Libya, where his orders were to “destabilize enemy and guerilla forces.”

“We had to break social paradigms of images of us being bad and show how we cared,” Wood said, adding that they gave free medical care at their schools. “In a few months, their perspective changed and 300 guerillas laid down their arms for farms. I worked for something bigger than myself and it has been an honor to serve. I carry a little of everyone with me because what I did was for all of America.”

APA teacher and veteran Tanner Latham told students everyone in the service contributes.

“There is no small job in the military,” he said. “Every job is important as it helps make our country what it is.”

Latham then challenged students to give service in the military or through public service.

“Hopefully, you can make this country even better than what we gave you,” he said.

Jay Birks, who was a second-class petty officer in aviation electronics, served in the Navy from 1947 to 1951. While in San Diego and considering extending his career in the military, he learned from a former buddy that four of his eight-member crew had died in a crash in Japan.

“They were fine men,” he said. “They served our country with honor.”

At nearby Draper Park Middle School, math teacher Michael Armstrong, who served as a medical X-ray technician in the Utah National Guard, was recognized at the school’s annual Veterans Day breakfast, which featured the school’s band, orchestra and choir.

During the “Armed Forces Medley,” those who served and were serving from each branch of the military stood in recognition, including Master Sergeant Clayton Miller, who was the guest speaker for the crowd of veterans, students, faculty and visitors.

Assistant Principal Josh Stott said the school hosts the Veterans Day breakfast to teach students respect for military men and women who serve the country.

“It was our pleasure to celebrate together the brave men and women who have served out country,” he said. “The musical numbers by our band and orchestra and the choir were inspirational. The speeches by (school principal) Mary (Anderson) and Master Sergeant Clayton Miller left us with great examples and respect for the honor, sacrifice and bravery of our veterans.”