Teacher, National Guard member: West Elementary’s Fowlkes talks annual Veterans Day program 

West Elementary held its annual Veterans Day program on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. (Lauren Estes)

CULLMAN, Ala. – West Elementary School’s fifth-grade class held its annual Veterans Day program Thursday, Nov. 9, welcoming local veterans to the school’s gymnasium. The school has been holding the event since the late 1980s. Since 2012, its been led by fifth-grade teacher Keenan Fowlkes, who is also a member of the National Guard. Fowlkes took over after Jane Neal Humiston retired.

“I felt like I learned from the best; she was and still is a second mother to me,” Fowlkes said. “It definitely takes a village. My fifth-grade ‘dream team’ helps make sure the kids are lined up correctly, runs the music, gives up their only bathroom break/planning period in the school day to help me at program practice, along with everything else in between. Those outstanding co-workers are Melanie Townson, Robin Smith, Cresha Bradley, Angela Hall and Daniele Pitzing. I could not pull off an event with over 120 kids without their support.”

Fowlkes said Principal Dr. Jay Page and Assistant Principal Tommy Duke always do an excellent job emceeing the program and she will be forever grateful to the PTA for putting together a beautiful reception for the veterans and decorating the gym. 

“Mrs. Kristy White and sixth-grade SGA help with decorating and greeting our veterans as they arrive,” Fowlkes said. “I also want to let everyone know that when I was leaving our final practice, Mrs. White was outside the gym weed-eating and the custodians had the leaf blower cleaning up our campus. Our sixth-grade students picked up trash and cleaned up as well. How many teachers do you know will pull out a weed-eater at the end of a long day and help make the school look amazing for our veterans? It brings tears to my eyes to see what an amazing staff we have at West. Mr. Wayne Cook sent two high school students to film the program for me. I appreciate that so much. I also have to give SFC (James) Edmunds and SFC (Michael) Carmack (from the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Cullman) a huge thank you as well! They come and pump my kids up and let them know what an awesome job they are doing.”

Fowlkes said the planning stages for the event started early for her because she was at JRTC late-May to mid-June, in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

“I’m in the 117th Field Artillery Unit, Charlie Battery in Daleville, Alabama,” Fowlkes said. “When we had any sort of downtime between missions, I was writing down what I wanted the program to look like this year. I have to make sure I remember every single person to thank and honor at this important event. I never want to leave anyone out. All veterans, spouses of veterans, those currently serving, family members and guests, thank you for attending. To my fifth-grade students, you made your country very proud! Old 25-Pool Service for purchasing our Veterans Day T-shirts. VFW Post 2214, I will always be grateful for your support. Mr. Roy Drinkard, the oldest living Marine and WWII veteran for attending our program; it is such an honor! Cullman City Fire Honor Guard for the presentation of the colors, Mrs. Katie McGee and Brandon Snider for performing our national anthem!”

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