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Honoring veterans grade-school style

Senior Master Sgt. Derek Bryant tosses goodies to children who participated by answering or asking questions during Silverwood School’s Veterans Day assembly. - Tara Lemm/Staff photo
Senior Master Sgt. Derek Bryant tosses goodies to children who participated by answering or asking questions during Silverwood School’s Veterans Day assembly.
— image credit: Tara Lemm/Staff photo

Silverwood students tip hats to local veterans

POULSBO — All 68 students at Silverwood School have a relative who’s served or is active in some branch of government/military service.

On Friday the school hosted an assembly for two special guests who help make the United States a cherished place to call home. The assembly also taught the students a few details about the military, a little history of Veterans Day, and to honor Kitsap’s and the nation’s veterans.

“We try to do (the assembly) every year to honor the active duty and reserves, and to also let kids know how tied to the military most of them are,” said Ann Vogel, assistant head of school.

Two local Air Force representatives, Senior Master Sgt. Derek Bryant, based out of Tacoma, and Senior Airman Alyssa Brandaberry, based out of Bremerton, were the school’s honored guests.

Bryant is a C-17 pilot who transports troops and supplies, as well as humanitarian relief. Brandaberry remains stationed on land and supports the pilots to ensure their transition home to their families is as smooth as can be.

The assembly kicked off with a vocal treat from the second-graders, as their soft voices rose, honoring Bryant and Brandaberry with a patriotic song.

“A-M-E-R-I-C-A, I love America every day. Oh, I love America,” they sang. “I do. I do.”

The duo told the students Veterans Day first began as Armistice Day at the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, to honor the war’s veterans. President Woodrow Wilson designated the day in 1919 and in 1938 Congress voted to make Armistice Day a national holiday. A few years later in 1953 the town of Emporia, Kan., started to call the celebration Veterans Day, to honor all veterans, and not just those who served in WWI. Congress followed suit and a bill for the Veterans Day holiday was pushed through. In 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Veterans Day bill into law, and it’s been known as Veterans Day ever since.

“For all it should be a day to pause, reflect and commemorate,” Bryant said. “We must remember to show respect for the sacrifices that were made for our freedoms of speech, religion, education and choice. Those are the pillars of our society.”

Bryant then shared the down and dirty details of his job flying a C-17, which travels at 500 miles per hour and has a width of 18 feet.

He’s flown to every continent at least three times, and returned to Antarctica this year, as he transported scientists and their equipment. He said the C-17’s three-man crew doesn’t stay on location long, maybe two weeks. The Iraqi Freedom airdrop was the biggest since Normandy in World War II.

Bryant also said he’s looking forward to having a new commander in chief in President-Elect Barack Obama.

“It’s all about defending our rights, freedoms and defending our country,” Bryant said.

Having young, curious minds the students had a slew of questions for Bryant. Among the questions; “How many planes have you flown on,” “In your opinion which branch of service has the best food,” “Is it possible to fly through the eye of a tornado,” and “How do yo refuel in the air.”

Bryant told his captive audience being a veteran is all about being there for each other. He said as students they can be education veterans, as the older they get and the more they learn they can mentor the younger students.

“Remember we can all be veterans,” he said. “It’s about experience and helping each other out.”

In addition to the assembly, the Silverwood students wrote letters and colored pictures for active duty troops over seas.

Several of the school’s parents are active duty or civil service. Last year one parent was stationed in Kuwait and this year a parent with three students at Silverwood just returned from Afghanistan.

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