By Debbie Adams
W.E. Cundiff Elementary School in Vinton honored veterans on Veterans Day, November 11, with a ceremony in the school gym. Principal Ashley McCallum thanked the veterans present—including parents and grandparents of Cundiff students.
“We would like to thank you for making the sacrifices necessary to protect and secure the freedoms of this great nation,” McCallum said. “It is an honor to have you here today.”
Students Grayson Bell, Hanna Counts, Bella Cooke, Aaliyah Vorst, and Alex Davidson recited a poem entitled “Thanks to the American Warriors,” followed by the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Honor Guard presenting the colors, accompanied by bagpiper Keenan Slusher.
Cundiff music teacher Ellen Hannan and Rick Elliott, Supervisor of Music and Performing Arts for Roanoke County Schools, performed the national anthem on trombones.
The W.E. Cundiff Flag Team (William Fitzgerald, Abbey Hedrick, Cally Lutz, Rosalina Martinez, Collyns Terrell, and Mason Weeks) led the Pledge of Allegiance.
The fourth and fifth graders, with flags waving, and accompanied by librarian Tracey Patterson on the piano. performed the classic “Fifty Nifty United States.”
McCallum then introduced 6th District Congressman Ben Cline who commented that growing up in Lexington, he, too, had learned and performed the “Fifty Nifty United States.” He noted that Veterans Day is a very special holiday because “honoring veterans has been important as long as our country has been a country,” with 20 million veterans alive today who have served in both war and peace. He told the students that Congress puts a priority on legislation for veterans.
“We take care of those who took care of us,” Cline said. “Congress is always looking for more ways to help veterans. Our Republic is blessed that there are so many who put service above self. We honor them for their courage and sacrifice. It is an honor to be in the company of heroes today.”
McCallum noted that students had been working on the Veterans Day program and rehearsing their patriotic songs since the first week of school.
Each branch of the armed services was recognized separately with a special guest reciting the creed of their branch, as the student body performed the traditional branch song. Five fifth grade students who had veterans attending the program were selected to fly the branch flag on stage.
Officer Smith, a Student Resource Officer who has served at Cundiff, read “The Title” which says: “It cannot be inherited. Nor can it ever be purchased. You and no one alive can buy it for any price. It is impossible to rent, and it cannot be lent. You alone, and our own, have earned it with your sweat, blood, and lives. You own it forever–the Title, ‘United States Marine.’” Students then performed “The Marine Hymn” while student Bella Cooke flew the Marine flag.
Officer Stritesky, Cundiff’s current SRO, read the “Army Creed”: “I am an American soldier. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army values. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained, and proficient in my warrior tasks. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert, and I am a professional. I stand ready to employ, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American soldier.”
Students sang “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” followed by “This is My Country” as student Sophie Jones presented the Army flag.
W.E. Cundiff parent Jeremy Obenchain, of the Coast Guard (parent of first grader Olivia Obenchain), read the Coast Guard Creed, “I am proud to be a United States Coast Guardsman. I revere that long line of expert seamen who by their devotion to duty and sacrifice of self, have made it possible for me to be a member of a service honored and respected, in peace and in war, throughout the world. I never, by word or deed, will bring reproach upon the fair name of my service, nor permit others to do so unchallenged. I will cheerfully and willingly obey all lawful orders. I will always be on time to relieve, and shall endeavor to do more, rather than less, than my share. I will always be at my station, alert and attending to my duties. I shall, so far as I am able, bring to my seniors, solutions, not problems. I shall live joyously, but always with due regard for the rights and privileges of others. I shall endeavor to be a model citizen in the community in which I live. I shall sell life dearly to an enemy of my country, but give it freely to rescue those in peril. With God’s help, I shall endeavor to be one of His noblest works—a United States Coast Guardsman.”
Students then performed “The Coast Guard Song” while Jace Remine flew the Coast Guard flag.
Parent Joanna Heaps (mother of Olivia, Carter, and Wyatt) presented the “Navy Creed” which states, “I am a United States Sailor. I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me. I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world. I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team with Honor, Courage, and Commitment. I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.”
Students performed “Anchors Aweigh” while Cashton Nute presented the Navy flag.
James Page, grandfather of fourth grader Archer Smith, read the Air Force Creed: “I am an American Airman. I am a warrior. I have answered my nation’s call. I am an American Airman. My mission is to fly, fight, and win. I am faithful to a proud heritage, A tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor. I am an American Airman, Guardian of freedom and justice, my nation’s sword and shield, its sentry and avenger. I defend my country with my life. I am an American Airman. Wingman, leader, warrior. I will never leave an Airman behind; I will never falter; and I will not fail.”
Students then sang “The Air Force Song” and “Thank you Soldiers” while Josiah Buck waved the Air Force flag.
“No Veterans Day program would be complete without mentioning those who gave all for the freedoms we enjoy in America,” Principal McCallum said. “Those who gave their lives in the service of their country are owed a debt of gratitude we could never repay. If you lost a buddy or a family member in battle, please know that we honor them now.”
Student Grayson Bell said to the veterans in closing, “We, the students of Cundiff Elementary School, would like you to know that we consider it a privilege to show you honor today. We thank you for your service to our country, and we hope that you know how much we all love our veterans. Some day in the future our generation will be running this country. As scary as that may seem to all of us right now, we want you to know that we love this country, and we look to the bright tomorrows of America. Some of us may be soldiers, sailors, coast guardsmen and airmen as well. When we look back at our years here, we will all be able to say that we met our first role models at Cundiff Elementary School’s Veterans Day program. Thank you for being our guests today.”
The program concluded with the always poignant playing of “Echo Taps” from two corners of the gym by Cundiff music teachers Ellen Hannan and Andrew Kaerwer.