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NICHOLS - By law every school is required to host educational activities in conjunction with the annual Veterans Day holiday.
Local schools were not hard pressed to find American veterans willing to share their experiences with students.
Many events were prepared by the schools’ Family Resource Centers. Arleta Watkins, FRC coordinator for both Brooks and Nichols Elementary, hosted events at each school. Her goal was introducing veterans from various time periods throughout the past century.
“I wanted the students to see the living timeline,” said Watkins. “I originally wanted a veteran from each war.”
Veterans attending both the Nichols and Brooks celebrations included Bob DeVore, Jr. who served both WWII and Korea in submarines for the US Navy.
Watkins’ father, David Davis, served as a cook for the Air Force during the Korean War.
Clinton Saul currently serves the Air Force and Kentucky Air National Guard. He has been to 29 countries while serving multiple tours in both the Iraq war and the international war on drugs. Saul is a former Nichols student.
“That made it more real, that makes it personal,” said Nichols principal Donna Taylor-LaFountain, who told students her son Jeremy was currently stationed near Baghdad. “These are actually our family members involved. That keeps the students’ attention.”
Other veteran visitors at Nichols included Mike Bishop, who served three years with the Army Infantry in Vietnam, and Danny Morrison, who served with the Army Infantry division in Korea.
At Brooks students met Bruce Robertson, husband of fifth grade instructor Sharon Robertson. Bruce served with the Army Infantry in Vietnam.
Brooks second grade instructor Bill Stangel, also a veteran, presented the American flag colors during the Brooks ceremony.
Students recited the Pledge of Allegiance and a school chorus performed patriotic songs at both school events.
Watkins received assistance during the programs from the Patton Museum. Karen Young, representing the museum, showed a PowerPoint presentation with photos and information about each war. She also displayed military uniforms showing different styles implemented in each war.
Rick Dickerson, also with the museum, visited fourth and fifth grade students prior to the events. Watkins said Dickerson discussed each war and offered advice to students on how to ask informational questions to veterans.
“Sometimes (veterans) don’t like to talk about certain things they had done,” Watkins said.
Once the question and answer sessions began, students showed a great deal of interest in the veterans’ answers and stories. Watkins said DeVore was a favorite in his original WWII uniform and a model replica of his submarine.
Some of the veterans’ answers surprised students. Asked which type of planes he flew for the Air Force, Saul noted that he was a firefighter and did not fly planes.
“Some students think soldiers are always fighting,” said Watkins. “But you have to have nurses and doctors, mail carriers, everything in the different service branches.”
In honor of the veterans and as a thank you to each, a White Table was presented at both schools by Joyce Crigler.
The White Table is a symbolic place setting at a dinner table on a white tablecloth. Crigler said the symbolism was first presented in a book, “The American White Table,” which she presented to students.
The place setting included a plate, upside-down glass, candle, red rose, salt and a lemon, each with its own symbolic meaning.
The White Table is created in honor of the POW/MIA soldiers who did not return home, Crigler said.
“I just think it’s a way to end the program, to let students know that not everybody came back from the war,” she said.
LaFountain was impressed with the interest and respect shown by her students.
“I think it was a very emotional day, just realizing that freedom isn’t free, it’s a high cost to pay,” she said. “It really hit home for a lot of students.”
Veterans Day events scheduled at Bullitt County Public Schools:
Tuesday, Nov. 11:
Roby Elementary, 9:10 a.m.
Old Mill Elementary, 9:30 a.m.
Hebron Middle, 12:45 p.m.
Overdale Elementary, 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 12:
North Bullitt High School, 8:15 a.m.