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Monday, November 16, 2015

190 Second Graders Sing At Fort Thomas Salute to Veterans

Second graders from all three FTIS elementary schools sang at this weekend's Fort Thomas Salute to Veterans.

Part of the charm of a city like Fort Thomas is the way it celebrates holidays, history and proprietary events. Like so many small towns across America in July we line the streets with our handheld flags while children collect candy in paper bags and later we marvel at fireworks. Come October we don our winter coats and tromp through the woods (this year under the most beautiful full moon) delighting in our neighbors' hand-carved pumpkins. In the springtime we watch children scramble to gather thousands of eggs in mere minutes. We honor music and local businesses with an all-day concert, shopping, food and beer. We set up tents and tables, and open our doors to honor art multiple times in the summer.

Veterans Day is no exception.

Fort Thomas has a long and lively military history, which was once again brought to life at the city's Fort Thomas Salute to Veterans this past weekend.

"We began Salute to Veterans eight years ago," says Debbie Buckley, Fort Thomas Renaissance Manager. "We were working on the concept of creating a 'historic destination' of the Fort. That included the Museum. Our Museum Committee is a separate sub-committee from Renaissance. We worked with the Sixth Scale Modelers of Southwestern Ohio to create the 'Salute to Veterans' event that year along with the USO Dance. It was all in one weekend with the dance on one half of the Mess Hall floor and the exhibit on the other half. The next year we divided it into two weekends and added a lot of exhibits and re-enactors."

Hundreds shows up to celebrate Fort Thomas Salute to Veterans.

Five years ago Buckley reached out to Mary Scaggs, Fort Thomas Independent Schools (FTIS) kindergarten through second-grade music teacher, asking for support. "I thought it was a good opportunity to work collaboratively with the city on such an important event," Scaggs says.

Buckley agrees that the support of the second graders from all three FTIS elementaries—Woodfill, Johnson and Moyer—enriches the program. "Mary does a fabulous job of putting together the program each year," Buckley says. "I love how the kids begin so early to learn how to honor our veterans."

The second graders began working on learning their songs 10 weeks before the event. "I only see them 45 minutes a week in music class so this gives us just enough time to learn the five songs and then put the songs together with the speaking parts, which are facts about Veterans Day," Scaggs says.

Second graders at Woodfill Elementary perform a Veterans Day program at their school Monday, November 9.

In addition to performing at the city's Salute to Veterans, every elementary school in Fort Thomas had a separate program to honor veterans. Johnson Elementary celebrated Friday, November 6 with Chief Hunter Pinney (US Coast Guard) as the guest speaker. Monday, November 9 Woodfill Elementary celebrated with Rick Jamie, a flight nurse for the US Air Force Reserve. And Moyer Elementary held their Veterans Day program Wednesday, November 11 with Principal Dawn Laber as the speaker.

"I think that all citizens should be aware of the sacrifices and commitments that our military make to help keep our country safe and make the USA an amazing place to live," Scaggs says. "I am so proud of all of the men and women that have served and are presently serving in our armed forces. My uncle and brother-in-law did not receive a good reception when returning from Vietnam. It is important for the youth of today, and all citizens, to realize the positive impact we can give to the military personnel to show our appreciation." 

Such appreciation was shown by Lexi Zins, a second grader at Woodfill. Her grandfather, Edward Fisher, served in the Navy from 1969 to 1973. He attended Woodfill's program November 9. Zins says it made her feel good that her grandfather made changes in his schedule to hear her sing songs in honor of the veterans. "They have served our country and given up a lot for us," she says.

Woodfill Elementary 2nd grader Lexi Zins with her grandfather, Edward Fisher, a veteran.

Fisher says it's important for students to realize that their relatives made a sacrifice for their freedom. "It makes everyone aware of the sacrifices that the veterans made for their country," he says.

This weekend's event, located at the Mess Hall in Tower Park, included historical reenactors. Saturday Vietnam veterans participated in a roundtable to help mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. Bill Melvin exhibited his military aircraft art. Colonial Balladeer Jonathan Hagee played and sang. The Patriot Pinup Girls Inc., Cincinnati Chapter, attended. Here you can see many pictures of the exhibits, which included action figures and scale models. Retired Fort Thomas teacher and Honor Flight Tri-State Ambassador Deanna Beineke had a table at the event. Kathleen Cox, co-author of Destination Unknown: Adventures of a WWII American Red Cross Girl spoke. Military vehicles were on display.

And on Sunday, 190 second graders from all three elementary schools gathered to sing. The program, which took place on the Mess Hall steps on what was an unseasonably warm November day, included five songs and many speaking parts. It was also the first time Fort Thomas Mayor Eric Haas announced a proclamation at the event, claiming November 15, 2015 Fort Thomas Salute to Veterans Day, honoring, in part, the 80,000 people who were inducted into service "at this very place." 

Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Heather French Henry

The program ended with words from Heather French Henry, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. "A few months ago Heather French Henry stopped by the museum and I told her about the event," Buckley says. "She volunteered to speak. I thought she did an amazing job." 

In all, for many, there was a lot of talk about heroes.

"In today's society, the word 'hero' is thrown around so easily and given to people who may only happen to be famous or important for a few moments in time," Scaggs says. "A true hero, like our military, our police and fire, and others that risk their lives, without regard to their personal safety, are our true heroes. Our children should be given the chance to learn about these heroes and show appreciation for their efforts. Events such as Veterans Day celebrations allow our children and the community to show our appreciation to these heroes in a simple but beautiful way, through song." 

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