November 12, 2011 in Washington Voices

Veterans from all branches of military attend Ponderosa assembly

By The Spokesman-Review
J. Bart Rayniak photoBuy this photo

Ponderosa Elementary fifth-graders Isaiah Gessner, left, and Nick Griep, center, listen to Marine Corps veteran Rex Walter describe his experiences serving his country in the early 1950s. Ponderosa student ambassadors brought veterans from Broadway Court Estates to their school for a Veterans Day assembly Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

Lawrence Rowse, 87, served in the U.S. Army during World War II, was involved in the invasion of Normandy and was injured during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart. During the Korean War, he served in the Navy.

“I’m very proud of him,” said his daughter, Julie Rowse, who was with him Thursday at a Veterans Day assembly at West Valley High School.

It is the men and women like Lawrence Rowse, who served and sacrificed for their country who were honored this past week at schools around the area.

At Ponderosa Elementary School in the Central Valley School District, students hopped on a school bus Tuesday and traveled to Broadway Court Estates, a retirement community in Spokane Valley. They invited the veterans there to get on the bus with them and come to the school for its annual Veterans Day assembly – one Principal Jerrol Olson called the school’s favorite.

“We’re really glad you are here,” Olson told the vets.

There were representatives – 21 in all – from all branches of the military. Olson brought them to the front of the school’s multipurpose room to introduce themselves to the students.

Many students wrote messages or poems to thank them for their sacrifice.

“Dear veterans,” Cyrus Cross read from his letter. “You may think you have been forgotten, but today, you are not. Thank you for being the reason our country is free.”

“Some of you have suffered and lost your friends to fight for our country,” read Luke Hawley. “You did that to protect me and my family. We thank you so much. When I grow up I think I might like to be a veteran just like you.”

The Pine Tones, the school’s choir, sang many patriotic songs between messages. They sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “I Vow to Thee My Country,” and a medley, “The Armed Forces Salute,” in which members of each branch of the military were invited to stand when their branch’s song was sung.

But the student’s really sang with feeling during “Proud to be an American.”

“We can’t thank you enough,” said Heather Brown, the music teacher leading the choir.

After the assembly, all the veterans were invited to a small reception in the art room.

At West Valley, students and staff compiled a video honoring people they knew who have served in the military.

Local veterans were invited to attend.

The main speaker was Pete Thompson, a former Navy SEAL, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a retired Air Force combat communications superintendent.

“There is no glory in war,” he told the audience. “There’s justice, but there is no glory.”

There was music from the school band and choir, as well as a drill down from the school drill team. Team captain Quincee Swenson called out commands while the drill team members did their best to follow them. When they made a mistake, each sat down until the last girl was standing.

Monica Jackson and Joey Clinton performed “Taps” at the end of the assembly.

Joey Bird, a sophomore, said he thought it was cool how everyone honors veterans every year.

Bird said his grandfather, Joseph Alexander, was in the Navy during World War II and he is very proud of him. Although his grandfather, 93, doesn’t talk about his experiences much, Bird knows what he gave for his country.

“My mom talks about him a lot,” Bird said.

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