Kadena Middle School pays tribute to Veterans
A sea of red poppies worn by Wolverine students reminded every one of those who served their nation for peace and freedom.
More than 600 Kadena Middle School (KMS) students paid tribute to U.S. military veterans by holding an early morning ceremony November 7 at the school.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Okinawa Post 9723 stood in formation with teacher and parent veterans. The VFW District/Post Commander Dennis Provencher along with Mr. Al Barney, KMS Principal laid a wreath at the school's flag pole. Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Pollock, 18th Mission Support Group deputy commander, was the guest speaker and discussed the patriotism of fallen Army soldier Pat Tillman. The ceremony featured an armed exhibition drill team performance by Kadena High School's Air Force Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
The ceremony was organized by retired Navy Lieutenant Commander John Gouldman who for the past five years has been a science teacher and National Junior Honor Society sponsor at KMS.
"The students we serve are a unique population," Lt. Cmdr. Gouldman said. "They often times sacrifice with the absence of parents and multiple moves," he continued. "I hope our students take away the gratitude we all have for those that serve, including their families. Being involved with the ceremony helps these young Americans understand and respect those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their beliefs, and for us."
Two brothers contributed in different ways during the Veterans day ceremony. Cadet Aidan Kuester, a 9th grader from Kadena High School and a member of the exhibition drill team, performed for the middle school.
"I think Veterans Day is a day when we all should give our thanks to the brave men and women who have fought to defend our country, and to honor them for their service," said Cadet Kuester. "I think it is important to honor veterans because they've done so much for us, and we can never really repay them for it."
Finlay Kuester, a student from KMS and NJHS member helped pass out poppies to fellow students and got to see his brother Aidan perform in the drill team exhibition.
"I thought about how much effort the (drill team) had put into rehearsing, and how hard it must be," said Finlay Kuester. "It did make me feel very proud."
Not only was Finlay Kuester proud of his brother, but Veterans day has special meaning to him.
"It is a day where we celebrate and thank everyone who fought for our country, living and dead," the 7th grader Finlay said. "It is important to remember their sacrifice."
Older brother Aidan Kuester is honored to wear the uniform.
"It makes me feel very proud, because whenever I put it on I feel like I get to represent my country, and that is a real honor," said Cadet Kuester.
According to Mr. Barney, it is important that students know and understand the importance of Veterans Day.
"Having Lt. Col. Pollock address the importance (of Veterans Day) and having the students see the veterans, especially the Veterans of Foreign Wars in their uniforms, will be a lasting impression for many of them," Mr. Barney said. "Several staff member at KMS are veterans," he continued.
For Lt. Cmdr. Gouldman, serving one's nation is a family tradition.
"My dad was a retired officer and served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam," said Lt. Cmdr. Gouldman. "When he retired, he became an active member of the local Veterans of Foreign War Post in Virginia and hosted a regional Voice of Democracy program every year. I was an 8th grader listening to Dad on the radio molding and shaping minds, he continued. I believe all kids this age should see and hear the solemn words of the dead as spoken in Flanders' Fields (poem)."
A tear in the corner of the eye of a veteran tells an untold story, said Lt. Cmdr. Gouldman.
"I have a couple of uncles on both sides of my family who were true American heroes who we all owe our freedoms too," said Lt. Cmdr. Gouldman. "Times have changed, but we can't allow our children and children's children to forget.
"We live in Okinawa, the site of the largest battle of the Pacific campaign, continued Lt. Cmdr. Gouldman. "As an American living here, we must understand and share our historical tie to the island."
All KMS teachers were on hand to watch and support the special Veterans Day ceremony.
"Hats off to Mr. Gouldman and everyone who contributed their time and talents during the KMS Veterans Day celebration," said Doctor Grace Huxtable-Mount, 6th grade KMS Reading and Language Arts teacher. "I enjoyed having the opportunity to acknowledge our veterans, especially the parents and staff of our school," said Dr. Huxtable-Mount. "This was a great way to bring us all together as a family to show our support, admiration and gratitude for those who've served our country."
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, Doctor (1919)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
This poem is normally read a Veterans Day ceremonies and was read at the KMS Veterans Day event by students.