Monday, April 15, 2024

Take a Veteran to School Day: Living History connects generations in CUSD classrooms

United States Naval Academy Class of 1953 graduate and veteran, Jim Rodgers, poses with three CMS students.

For the sixth consecutive year, schools in the Coronado Unified School District have participated in the History Channel’s program “Take A Veteran to School Day.” Close to 100 Veterans spent the morning of November 7, 2014, in Coronado’s public schools passing on their patriotism, experiences and creating a lasting impression on the young generation of students currently enrolled in Coronado’s public schools.

“This day is an opportunity for us to say thank you to our Veterans, but also a wonderful way to connect our students with people who have lived and are still, living history as it unfolds. They have been to all corners of the world in war time and in peace and they each have a story to tell,” offered CMS teacher and program coordinator Amy Steward.

At Village Elementary, members of the Ambassador Club welcomed Veterans and their guests.

The Early Childhood Development Center welcomed three Navy veterans this year. Pre-K and Kindergarten students were treated to a visit from Lt. Michelle Ratcliffe, LCDR Matt Wright and LCDR Rick Piechota.

Students from Nancy Ratcliffe’s kindergarten class pose with Navy veterans on Take A Veteran to School Day.

Village Elementary’s program included a breakfast for students and their guest veterans in Village Hall. The event started before school at 7:20 a..m and featured members of the ambassador club as greeters and a continental style breakfast. Decorations included posters made by Village students and stars decorated by students to honor their veterans. Each classroom featured at least one speaker and all children with a guest veteran were invited to introduce their veteran to their classmates.

Stars honoring veterans of students decorate the walls. Local dads and veterans.

Ambassador Club members usually welcome new students, but November 7 they were welcoming Veterans.

A local military family enjoys the Veterans’ day celebration. Guests arrived to schools lined with American flags.

Jenna Corrigan and her dad, Bill, a Navy Veteran, enjoyed the festivities at Village Elementary.

At Coronado Middle School, the morning started with veterans of all ages gathering in Granzer Hall. There was a continental breakfast with coffee, tea, water and a capacity crowd. The Advanced Performing Arts Class treated the attendees to a dance accompanied by patriotic music. It was creative and well done. The school choir followed with renditions of each military branch’s service song. As they sang, veterans from the featured service would stand. There was at least one veteran from each branch of service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. It was an impressive group!

APA students perform a patriotic dance complete with tap shoes. Special rock star parking!

CMS choir performs for the Veterans’ day audience. Patriotic decorations adorned Granzer Hall.

Following the performances, the attendees were treated to a special broadcast by digital media class KCMS. The broadcast included a video of students sharing what they like about “Take a Veteran to School day”, with one of the most memorable answers offered: “An opportunity to show respect to those who have sacrificed for our country.” There was also a video featuring “This day in history, November 7, 1942” which provided some interesting and important history of our nation.

Before Veterans adjourned to speak to classrooms, they gathered for a group picture. WWII to present day heroes!

The broadcast also featured the introduction of all World War II veterans in attendance. Known as “The Greatest Generation”, their numbers are dwindling as they age and pass. It is so important to not only honor and remember these veterans, but hear their stories while we still can.

Patriotic decorations graced every section of the hall. The sign says is best, “We LOVE our Veterans.”

Following the breakfast and broadcast, each classroom at the middle school was treated to two different speakers. Presentations varied depending on the veterans in the class. Ms. Jensen’s class listened to a Navy Surface veteran who told the students, “I was in the Navy over 30 years and I’d still be there now if they let me…at 72 years old. I loved every minute of it.”

A class of students listens to a retired Navy surface officer. A yearbook contributor takes copious notes during the talk.

Another classroom had the privilege to welcome Captain Ernest M. Moore who served in both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Captain Moore was deployed in the fall of 1966, flying missions over North Vietnam and was shot down in March of 1967. He spent six years as a Prisoner of War in the Hanoi Hilton. He had a very clear message for the students. “War is terrible,” he told the class. “I hope this is the generation that will figure out how we live on this planet without wars.”

He told them about being tortured and isolated from other American POW’s. He also shared how they managed to cope for such a long period. As Captain Moore spoke, there was a map of Vietnam displayed behind him and several items from his time in service that he brought to share with the students. His words were powerful, “This is the most wonderful country. I’ve been all over the world. We are lucky to live in this country. Are we bound to serve? YES! We are bound to serve because we were lucky enough to be born in the United States.”

Captain Ernest M. Moore shared some powerful stories of his time in service with Kathy MacDonald’s class.

An Army veteran in another class wowed the students by sharing a radio he uses. The class was awed that one radio carries the heavy price tag of $3,500. They found it especially interesting that he is trained in using a grenade launcher. A cryptologist spoke Russian for Melissa Miller’s class and told of living in 20 houses, making nine cross country drives, and moving his son from one state to another between his junior and senior years of high school; all part of the military lifestyle.

That radio comes with a heavy price tag.

For students at ECDC, Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School, the entire morning culminates with a parachute demonstration on the high school field. Thanks to local resident Buzz Fink, owner of Sky Dive San Diego and local VFW post 2422 (who pays the insurance fee), an amazing display of patriotism and skill are witnessed by hundreds of students, parents, teachers and veterans. The NJROTC color guard presented the colors for the singing of the national anthem by CMS teacher Brooke Binns and student Tyler Gilmore. Then all eyes turned upward as the plane, capable of carrying a total of 23 jumpers, circled overhead.

CHS NJROTC Color guard. Students showing respect during the National Anthem.

All eyes were upward in anticipation of the parachute jumpers.

Mark Guinto gracefully falls from the sky, proudly displaying the flag of the United States Navy.

The jumpers left the plane at about 4,500 feet and deployed their parachutes between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. All jumpers are instructors. The entire evolution was accompanied by commentary explaining specifics about safety and technique. Each jumper had a flag representing a branch of military service or a specific community. The US Coast Guard flag was carried by Eric Skraby, Army flag by Cesar de Castro, Air Force flag by Mikhail Mineev, USMC flag by Jim Wallace (who has over 24,000 sky dives), Navy SEAL flag by John Leming and Navy flag by Mark Guinto. The last jumper traditionally carries the American flag. JC Ledbetter landed with the best and brightest of flying colors, the red, white and blue.

JC Ledbetter drops onto Niedermeyer field in Coronado, California as part of the Take a Veteran to School day program.

Coronado High School recognized Veterans’ day with a presentation of colors and singing of the National Anthem at their daily ten minute morning break. The quad featured a “Wall of Honor” where student could post cards honoring veterans in their lives. Silver Strand Elementary held their weekly flag pole assembly where students recite the pledge of allegiance and sing both a patriotic song and the school song. There was a brunch held in the school’s cafeteria for military families.

Thank you to the History Channel, Time Warner Cable, the school staff, and all the volunteers who make this amazing event possible. Gratitude especially goes to the men and women in uniform and their families for their service and sacrifice to our country.

Kellee Hearther

Staff Writer

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