W.E. Cundiff Elementary School honored veterans with a breakfast on November 10 served by the members of the Roanoke Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the school cafeteria.
WEC students invited individual veterans to participate and to remain for a program of patriotic music planned and led by music teachers Ellen Hannan and Andrew Kaerwer. Hannan said that about 124 veterans and 30 of their guests attended the events.
Veterans received seats of honor in the gymnasium at WEC, facing the entire student body. The program opened with greetings from Principal Ashley McCallum and Assistant Principal Suzanne Lothes. The Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Color Guard posted the colors, followed by the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, and then the incredible music program.
Thirteen different student speakers introduced segments of the program with a history of the branches of each service. They included SCA President Grace Williams, Heidi Dixon, Miley Moses, Becca Radford, Taylor Jacobsen, Eliza Otey, Sophie Holcomb, Graysen Divers, Reagan Grant, Maddie Moock, Nathanial Rucker, Aidan Kelly, and Justyn Rozenboom.
When they accepted the invitation to breakfast, the veterans were asked to indicate which branch of the Armed Forces they had served in. McCallum and Lothes read the names of each and every veteran in attendance as different grade levels saluted the veterans with the official songs of the branches. WEC students who had invited the veterans were asked to stand when each veteran stood to be introduced.
What was most unique about the songs was that they were introduced by a student bearing the flag of each branch and the students were accompanied by Kaerwer on the trumpet as they sang. Students who carried the flags were Gregory Stiltner (Marine), Wyatt Bowles (Army), Mario Arias (Navy), Daemon Niday (Coast Guard), and Kenzie Lee (Air Force).
Grace Williams said that the program would be memorable for the students who would be able to recall that they met their first role models at Cundiff when they met the veterans who served their country.
“The Marine Hymn” was sung by children in grades one through five, along with “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
“Anchors Aweigh” was performed by the third through the fifth grades, along with “The Coast Guard Song,” and “The Air Force Song.”
Students also performed a patriotic medley, including “Let Freedom Ring.”
The oldest veteran present, Darrell English, was recognized during the assembly.
The program concluded with the entire student body joining together to sing “This is My Country,” followed by a stirring rendition of “Echo Taps” performed by music teachers Hannan and Kaerwer from opposite corners of the gym.
McCallum commended her students for their stellar behavior when the program was inadvertently interrupted by “an impromptu fire drill.” They calmly looked to the teachers for direction, followed them in an orderly fashion out of the building to their places on the hillside overlooking the school, and then filed back in to complete the program.