By Lisa Capobianco
Students throughout the Southington school district expressed their patriotism and appreciation for military men and women through Veterans Day celebrations, welcoming family members and friends who have served in the past and present.
During a ceremony at Derynoski Elementary School, fifth graders took the stage to honor veterans through a musical ensemble, playing patriotic songs on the flute, clarinet and other instruments. Students also presented a brief history of Veterans Day as well as the history of the five branches of service, including the Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines.
Keith Tomlinson, a fifth grade teacher at Derynoski, said the celebration serves as a way to make children aware of the meaning of Veterans Day.
“It is not just about someone who fights in a war—it is about anyone who serves his or her country,” Tomlinson said.
During the ceremony, select students walked up the stage holding hands with a veteran they knew personally, presenting a small American flag to show their appreciation. Over a dozen veterans filled the stage of the auditorium as each name was called. Students also displayed boxes of donations for the Rocky Hill Veteran’s Home, filled with toiletries and other basic necessities.
“It is a meaningful day,” said Wayne White, a Vietnam era veteran who attended the celebration. “We are happy to do what we do.”
After the ceremony, the fifth graders continued their program with a reading and performance of “The White Table” for their guests, each playing a different role. “The White Table,” written by Margot Theis Raven, centers on a mother who explains to her children the meaning of each item placed on a white table, which symbolizes service members who went missing or died in the line of duty. Displaying a table in the center of the classroom, select fifth graders took turns setting the table with a white cloth, an empty chair, an inverted wine glass and a lemon slice with grains of salt on a plate.
Maryann Castrilli, a fifth grade teacher, said it was an honor for her to see the students learn about the true meaning of Veteran’s Day through the performance.
“They are learning appreciation for a world outside their own, and a sense of citizenship,” Castrilli said.
Students at Kelley Elementary School also performed a ceremony of “The White Table” during their Veterans Day celebration. As they filled the cafeteria wearing red white and blue outfits, the fourth grade chorus also sang patriotic songs, including “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “God Bless America.” Each student then presented a flag and certificate to a family member or friend who served in the military as names of veterans were called.
Fourth grader Trent Campbell played a part in the White Table ceremony and also honored his grandfather Charles Hilton who served in the Air Force, traveling all over the world.
Hilton, who served as a second lieutenant, said he felt appreciated throughout the program.
“It means a lot to be honored by the community,” said Hilton, who traveled to Japan, Korea and Alaska while serving in the Air Force.
The meaning of the program also resonated with faculty members. Music teacher Julia Thomas, who has served in the National Guard for nine years, returned home from a mission trip in Afghanistan this past June. Leading the fourth grade chorus, Thomas said she felt thrilled that her students expressed their appreciation for veterans through songs.
For Principal Marilyn Kahl, the ceremony hit home for her. Both her husband and father served in the Navy, and Principal Kahl also honored her uncle, a veteran, during the program.
“I grew up understanding the importance of veterans,” Kahl said. “Honoring them must be instilled in children at a young age.”