PHOTO CAPTION: FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Brig. Gen. Michael Bills, acting senior commander, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, explains the importance of honoring veterans during a Veterans Day ceremony at Piñon Valley Elementary School, Monday.
November 14, 2013
By Andrea Stone (Fort Carson)
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- They may have had school on Veterans Day, but students at Piñon Valley Elementary School still had the opportunity to honor veterans. The day began with a flag-raising ceremony and culminated in an assembly with a presentation by Brig. Gen. Michael Bills, acting senior commander, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson.
"The generations of veterans that came before us sacrificed so you and I could be here today, safe, free and happy," he said. "Veterans Day is just one day out of the year when we can take time to honor our veterans."
In previous years, there have been fewer Veterans Day activities at the school, but this year, it was decided to make it bigger, school principal Robin Reintsema said.
"We are a school with between 25 and 33 percent of our enrollment (being) military Families, so we're very honored to be a part of this today," she said.
The ceremony included speeches by children and grandchildren of veterans on subjects such as what a veteran is, the history of Veterans Day and the use of bugle calls. The ceremony ended with the playing of taps.
In his speech, Javonte Johnson, sixth grade son of Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Johnson, explained that veterans could be Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen.
"Together, they are all veterans, and we are proud to have some of them with us today," he said.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Randy Trussell, a sixth grade teacher, was also honored for his service.
After the presentations, the students were surprised by a visit from Carlos, a four-legged veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Carlos was an explosive detection dog who worked with 3rd and 4th Infantry divisions in Iraq and U.S. Army Special Forces in Afghanistan.
The PTO helped organize the events, which will continue throughout the week with a military show and tell, visits by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets and a potluck dinner for military Families.
"I didn't remember, as a child, ever being in school on Veterans Day, so I was a little upset," said parent Angela Oakley, one of the event organizers. "But I've started to think differently on the subject. Most children wouldn't celebrate Veterans Day … so this way, we're actually highlighting what Veterans Day is all about."
The week has been an opportunity to honor not only veterans, but their Families as well.
"There's a lot of challenges that go along with being a military Family," Reintsema said. "I wanted to make sure (military children) felt well connected here."
In his speech, Bills highlighted the importance of thanking veterans for their service.
"One reason America is so special is because our veterans choose to serve. By making the choice to serve and protect our country, veterans ensure that you, the citizens of the U.S., get to enjoy (your) freedoms," he said. "What can all of us do to thank a veteran? How about simply saying, 'thank you.'"