West Elementary students honor veterans at annual assembly


Students representing five branches of the United States military participate in a flag ceremony at West Elementary’s annual Veterans Day program Thursday. Shown, left to right are: Dylan Hastings, Tommy Herc, Ella Kate Lang, Delanie Stracener, Gavin Smelser and Lily Lambert. Guards, not pictured: Alex Hurst and Malacki Hines (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN – The West Elementary fifth-grade class held its annual Veterans Day program Thursday, welcoming family members and area veterans.

A reception was held between the morning and afternoon programs for veterans and their families. West Elementary Principal, Dr. Jay Page, explained that the event ties into the fifth-grade American history curriculum.

Keenan Fowlkes directed this year’s program, sharing, “The kids had a great program this morning and sang their hearts out. I’m very proud of their hard work.” 

The presentation of the colors was done by the Cullman City Police Department Honor Guard, while sixth-grader Willa Smith performed a beautiful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” 

The fifth graders proudly recited the Preamble of the Constitution prior to performing a medley of favorite patriotic songs including the official Alabama state song, “Alabama,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Proud to Be an American.” They paused for former Cullman Mayor Max Townson’s telling of the story “The Ragged Old Flag.”

Many veterans and active duty military members were in attendance for the program. The veterans and service members were recognized as a whole prior to the kids singing “The Armed Forces Medley.” As each branch’s hymn was sung, students presented the flag for that branch. Veterans stood as their hymn was performed and students gave each a flag in appreciation of their service. Members of all five branches were in attendance. 

A flag ceremony was held by a select group of fifth graders who dressed in military uniforms. After the flag was folded, a moment of silence was observed.

Veteran Sam Bates from Cullman Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2214 spoke to the students, who were wearing matching Veterans Day T-shirts, saying, “I want you all to wear those shirts to bed Sunday night. When you wake up Monday morning and don’t have to go to school, look down at your shirt. Look at it and remember the sacrifices the veterans have made for our country.”

The program was extremely special for Malacki Hines, a fifth grader in Angela Hall’s class. His grandfather Thomas Easterwood (Army National Guard), stepfather Perry Easterwood (Army and Coast Guard), uncle Scott McKenzie (Air Force), and stepbrother Christopher Easterwood (Marines) were all in attendance.

Perry Easterwood said, “This program means a lot. It shows the appreciation the kids and the school have for the veterans and military. Scott and I both went to West Elementary and graduated from Cullman High School in 1984. Coming back and watching Malacki and his class honoring veterans is very special.” 

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