Vinemont 5th graders raise more than $1K for American Legion

The Vinemont Elementary fifth-grade class ended its walk-a-thon with a line to cheer for visiting veterans who came to speak with them Friday morning. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

VINEMONT, Ala. – Vinemont Elementary School’s fifth graders braved the chilly weather Friday morning to participate in a walk-a-thon to benefit the American Legion. The students, who walked around the school and then returned inside to hear from some visiting veterans, raised $1,114.85.

Veterans from the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy were on hand to talk with the children.

Army Veteran Rick Black shared, “I served in Vietnam. Unfortunately, a lot of guys did in that era. The ones that came home, we’re feeling great, we feel great about being a veteran but we remember all the guys that didn’t make it home, OK? Being a veteran, that’s what the VFW is all about, remembering those guys that made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s great to see all of you young folk go and be patriotic and support the veterans. You know, just thinking of veterans, it means a lot to them. The Vietnam-era veterans, especially, but the greatest guys were the World War II heroes. There were a lot of those that served and we don’t have many of them left, so if you see a WWII veteran, thank him for his service.”

Veteran Van Hutchins spoke emotionally, saying, “I had some friends in the Marine Corps, and some of them didn’t come back. I love my country; I’m glad I got to fight for it. I thank y’all. I thank you for your patriotism to our country and I hope and pray that when you grow up, none of you have to go to war. We just need to defend our country, be very patriotic. Like say, sometimes when we put flags out on the highway, some people steal them, that’s not good. Not good. I thank y’all, I thank your teachers. (I) appreciate you.”

Vinemont Elementary fifth-grade teachers Jacqueline Hill, Linsey Hudson, Leah Sapp and Jeni Wilhite were all involved in organizing Friday morning’s event.

“We all teach history,” said Wilhite. “We all do the Super Citizen Program, and we all do it together. It was more a history aspect to speak with the veterans; we just kind of tried it with Veterans Day coming up, and then our Super Citizen Program, and they pick a person from the community that they feel like is a ‘Super Citizen’ and they write about them and talk about them. Veterans usually come and visit them more than once during the year as we’re getting ready for this.”

Wilhite elaborated on the Super Citizen Program.

“It talks about a bunch of different things; it’s mainly about how to be good citizen and what it means to be a good citizen.”

She gave credit to retired fifth-grade teacher Sandra Sandlin for starting the program.

“She started this,” said Wilhite. “She just has a heart for veterans and a passion for doing things for them and it meant a lot to her, so she started it. It was just something that we helped with and then we just wanted to continue with her (legacy). It’s to teach the kids what it means to be a veteran, what they have done for our country and how you should be thankful and just to let them see that part of it. It’s just something special that we want to do every year that’s important.”

Added Hill, “The veterans should be recognized and the kids need to know that. I don’t think it hurts for kids at an early age to realize that they can do something to help somebody else. I think too many times they think, ‘Well, I’m little. What can I do?’”

She continued, “It’s just that’s the right thing to do, that’s what we do. We have to teach it, they need to learn the respect for the veterans and those serving now, not just veterans.”

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Local veterans talked with fifth graders at Vinemont Elementary Friday morning. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)
The Vinemont Elementary fifth-grade class gave a banner that read “Veterans, we salute you!” to visiting veterans Friday morning. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

Maggie Darnell