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South Valley Journal

Proud families share veterans’ stories

Nov 25, 2019 03:18PM ● By Jet Burnham

Navy veteran Keith Steere stands to be honored by the school choir. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Blackridge Elementary held a special assembly to honor veterans. Each student wore a paper poppy over their heart in remembrance of World War I veterans. As the fifth graders sang an armed forces medley, both active duty military members and veterans were invited to stand and be recognized. Third grade students handed poppy pins and letters of appreciation written by students to them as they stood.

Students and faculty members also stood to express appreciation and pride of their family members—fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins and sons—who have served and are serving their country. In the school gymnasium packed with students and family members, they shared their loved ones’ stories.

Michelle Lindsey, first grade teacher, proudly shared stories of her father, Gerald C. Pratt, who served in Army during the Korean War. His life was spared many times, and his work in communications was integral to the safety of many.

“I'm very proud of my father's service to his country and feel blessed that at 87 years old, he's still here with me,” Lindsey said.

Blackridge Nutrition Manager Debora Beckstead shared how proud she is of her son Weston who joined the Air Force after high school graduation.

“He will be deployed for his first deployment in January 2020,” she told students. “So, if you see me crying for the next six months, you'll know why. As a mother, it's hard to see him go, but I want to let him know how proud I am of him and all that he's accomplished and thank him for his service.”

At North Star Academy, students honored 40 veterans with a special program. Every kindergarten through ninth grade student participated by singing a patriotic song, playing an instrument, performing a skit, creating an art piece or writing letters of appreciation.

Guest speaker Jeremy Holm, an Olympic bobsledder, spoke to students about what it means to be a hero. He said his grandfather taught him that a hero is someone who helps others. Holm shared his grandfather’s stories of serving as a paratrooper.

“Every veteran has a story,” Holm said. “Every veteran has a reason why they do what they do and did what they did. My grandpa went because he loved this country and believed it was worth fighting for, and he wanted us, today, to have a good life. We thank our veterans by living a good life, by honoring our country and our freedoms.”

Students received a special message from NSA alumnus Ryan Hall, who is currently serving in the Army’s 25th infantry stationed in Hawaii. Hall entered kindergarten for NSA’s inaugural year and remained until he graduated the ninth grade. Through a video message, Hall expressed his pride in serving his country and appreciation for those who have sacrificed for freedom in the past that should not be forgotten. He then challenged students to identify any of their family members or neighbors who are serving in the armed forces.

“Write a letter to a soldier, sailor, marine or an airman who is currently deployed overseas, extending your gratitude,” he said.

Navy veteran Keith Steere’s three grandchildren invite him to the NSA Veteran’s Day event every year. He said it reminds them of sacrifices made by him and other family members who also served in the military, including his father and his uncle.

“I hope they have respect for our country and courage to carry that on and be grateful for those that served them,” said Steere.

Mike Denison, Army reserve, has two daughters who attend NSA. He said school programs such as this help kids understand sacrifices veterans have made.

Denison was deployed to Iraq in 2005 when his oldest daughter was just 4 months old.

“I missed that first bit of life—for me that was probably the biggest sacrifice,” Denison said. He said military families also deserve appreciation.

“There’s lots of sacrifice by the whole family—the ones that stay home and are left to worry,” he said.