By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Although Perdido School’s November 9 assembly was a prelude to Veterans Day, the gathering also had a Thanksgiving flavor to it.
Principal Phillip Stewart said during the program, considered one of the best in the area, was not just to honor those who serve or have served in the nation’s military, but also to thank them.
“Our main message today is to say, ‘thank you’,” Stewart said in his opening remarks. “Thank you for your sacrifice; thank you for your willingness to serve and your sense of duty, along with your protection so we can enjoy all the freedoms we have. Most importantly, we thank you for your bravery. Without that, this country just doesn’t work.”
Sixty veterans attended the assembly, and each was made to feel welcome by the school’s pre-K and kindergarten students, who applauded as each veteran and guest entered the school gym.
After Lisa Hurley, who organized this year’s program, introduced eighth-grade student Cody Gardner, who delivered the invocation, a color guard from Baldwin County High school’s Air Force JROTC program presented the colors; Melody Ganey of Perdido Baptist Church sang the National Anthem; and the Perdido Middle School Band, under the direction of Tyler Williams, played “America the Beautiful.”
Hurley then introduced Gavin Brandt, a seventh grader who won this year’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Youth Essay Contest, and Madelyn Massingill, who won an essay contest sponsored by Mobile Bay Veterans Commission. Each read their winning essays, Brandt pointing out that his grandfather served as a corpsman in Vietnam, and Massingill pointing out that a long line of her relatives had served in the military.
The band followed with “Chester” and “Grand Ole Flag,” then the keynote speaker, Staff Sergeant Travis Pruitt, delivered his remarks.
“Wow, it’s hard to follow Gavin and Madelyn,” Pruitt said before getting into a brief history of Veterans Day and his thoughts on veterans. “This week, people throughout the country will gather to remember, to honor and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country. Our gathering is just one small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day.
“It is still not enough, but it is one small way we can honor those who have made the sacrifices so that we can live in freedom. Your presence here today serves as a tribute to these men and women and their families. It is a way to say we remember.
“From the soldiers who shivered and starved through winter at Valley Forge, to the doughboys crouched in the muddy trenches of France, to the platoon who patrolled the hazy jungles of Vietnam and the service members overseas as we speak, we remember and honor you all.”
Then came one of the annual program’s highlights, the singing of an armed forces medley by students in grades 1-5. As the medley progressed, veterans from the various service branches stood when their respective themes were sung.
Near the end of the medley, students in the first row of bleachers held up red squares, with the next holding up white squares and those in the upper left section held up blue squares with a star in the middle, forming a flag. When the string of military themes ended, the top two rows flipped their cards to spell out “Thank you.”
After a presentation of the POW/MIA table, including explanation of what each item represented, Stewart delivered his closing remarks, then the veterans and several guests went to the school cafeteria for refreshments.
Students from the school’s Project Jubilee and Beta Club, along with its cheerleaders, served as greeters, waiters and waitresses for the hungry throng. Fourth-grade student Pierson Harville served as the school’s official photographer, snapping shots of the entire event.
The assembly ended, as it does every year, with the playing of “Taps” by bugler Jacob Ziegler, a Baldwin County High student.
Allyson Maxwell, the school’s first-year assistant principal, was witnessing her first Perdido Veterans Day Assembly. She said she was impressed.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I think the children were more excited than the veterans. They have spent nearly all year getting ready for this.”