Rosa Parks Elementary students host pre-Veteran's Day luncheon
By MARY STEVENS DECKER
Redmond Reporter Reporter
November 12, 2009 · Updated 4:56 PM
For the second year in a row, Redmond's Rosa Parks Elementary School hosted an impressive, pre-Veteran's Day luncheon, to thank men and women who'd served in the military and family members who supported them.
More than 50 proud veterans turned out, representing nearly 70 years of service. Active troop members from Fort Lewis also attended.
"The message of today's luncheon is one that should be echoed throughout the world," explained teacher J. Kristian Brekke, who spearheaded the idea to welcome the veterans and coordinated students' roles in entertaining the guests.
"It is a message of resounding nature and immortal brief," Brekke noted. "Today's performers will be sending a threaded message to the world that we can all be proud of. Their message will be felt in the hearts, minds and stomachs of all who attend. They are role models to all other citizens of the United States and they will be showing their appreciation for the peace, freedom, liberty, unity and allegiance we are provided and share every minute of our lives. With the help of the media, our message will be sent throughout the world for all to witness."
Rosa Parks principal Jeff Newport, who served in Vietnam, explained why inviting veterans to the school was important.
"To meet and greet people, hear their stories," he said, helps children understand the humanity of those who have made sacrifices for our freedom. In turn, the veterans are "touched by the goodness and compassion" that the children display.
And for many of the kids, there were deeply personal connections at the luncheon. They invited parents, grandparents and other family members who were veterans, to enjoy the free lunch and a patriotic program of music and readings. One attendee, Rick Ingram, who had served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, came all the way from Atlanta at the request of his granddaughter Averi Robinson, a Rosa Parks student.
After the sumptuous meal, there were solemn moments, as an Honor Guard from Redmond's VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 2995 presented the colors and showed how to fold a flag that had been draped on the coffin of a veteran.
Professional bugler Tony Montecalvo played "Taps" in memory of the deceased and teacher Miguel Viamonte sang and played guitar to a poignant rendition of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
But the event was joyful, too, when young instrumentalists and vocalists performed "God Bless America," "Grand Old Flag" and "This Land is Your Land," and handed out souvenirs to veterans.
Teacher Jim Anderson told the crowd at the luncheon that he'd noticed the darkness this morning on the way to school and was transformed by then seeing the sun.
"You have to live through the darkness to appreciate the sun," Anderson pointed out.
He said his generation had been disconnected from veterans but congratulated Brekke and the students for "re-connecting."
Also this week, said Anderson, Rosa Parks students studied wartime photos and wrote about their observations.
"I'm happy and sad," one child wrote about a picture he analyzed. "Happy because they're protecting us ... sad because so many have died."
During a brief open microphone session, honorees expressed hope that young people would continue to learn about American history and the fact that "freedom isn't free."
Said one veteran, "When we came back from Vietnam, we were treated like the enemy, like bad guys. ... Thank you for the kind words. When we came back from Vietnam, there were no words, there were only cold shoulders."
A World War II veteran called the hostility toward returning soldiers from Vietnam, back in the day, "shameful, a terrible thing." He implored the crowd, when thinking of all veterans, to "pray for and remember those who didn't make it back."
Brekke wrapped up the program with an emotional message: "This is the kind of stuff you can't get in a textbook. This needs to be done a lot more often and a lot louder."Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Mary Stevens Decker at email@example.com or (425) 867-0353, ext. 5052.