Filing in one by one, students from kindergarten to fifth grade went out of their way to wave or stop and say “thank you” to the men in uniform resting next to the stage in the Sullivan’s Island Elementary cafeteria. It was 1:30pm on November 11, and the entire student body of SIES was on hand to celebrate Veteran’s Day with several local veterans and a pair of very special video guests.
The celebration kicked off with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a beautiful performance of The Star Spangled Banner led by student body president, Mackenzie Fowler. The students then watched a video created by the Veterans Day National Committee called “Honoring All Who Served”, which was quickly followed by a series of short speeches from some of the Charleston area’s most renowned veterans.
Captain (Ret.) Ned Forney of the United States Marine Corps, currently the Director of Education at Patriots Point, asked the students about the word “service” and what it means to help other people. “When men and women go into the service, they have to make sacrifices,” said Forney. “But they are protecting the greatest thing we have in America. And what’s that?” He asked. The student body shouted in response, “Freedom!” Forney smiled and applauded the students, reminding them to thank any soldiers they meet for serving our Country.
Captain Bill Walsh of the United States Air Force Reserve, 315th Airlift Wing, and Chief Meteorologist for Live 5 News, engaged the students with tales of his travels. Walsh described how he helps to fly C-17s all around the world to assist the United States Military in global mobility by moving troops, tanks and whatever else is needed to locations across the globe. “Never take freedom for granted,” Walsh reminded the students. “Serving is my way of giving back to the community and America.”
Finally, Sergeant First Class Leo Fetter of the United States Army Reserves told the students about the days when he was a student at SIES and how, after retiring once, he returned to the Army Reserves. Before closing, he introduced the last speakers for the event; Sergeants First Class David and Shakeya Oliver of the 396th Transportation Company, both of whom joined the class via a live video feed from Iraq.
Pre-written questions were read to the Olivers as the students and members of the Oliver’s family watched. Questions ranged from “Why did you decide to be a soldier?” to “What is the base like?” and “Have you ever driven a tank?” The Olivers answered the students’ questions with smiles and as the Celebration wrapped up, the family members were given a chance to speak with the couple directly over the video feed.
As they left, the students again thanked the veterans for their service and shook their hands, their faces glowing with pride and honor at meeting a few of the defenders of our Country.