On Thursday, November 7th, patriotism and gratitude were the words of the day at Williams Elementary and Middle schools. At 10:20 a.m., students from first through sixth grade filled the Williams High School gym.
Although Veteran’s Day was not until the following Monday. One special Williams Middle School associate ensured that the youngest citizens of Williams would still be taught it’s meaning.
Toni Rivera, a longtime employee of the Williams Unified school district, put together this year’s program, just like she had in the past.
When asked where her passion for this particular national holiday comes from, Ms. Rivera smiled, raising one hand to just below her collarbone. “It’s a day that is very close to my heart,” she explained, her smile widening and reaching her eyes.
Rivera two sons serve in the armed services. Her eldest, Sgt.Kyle Trosky is on active duty with the 75th regiment of the Army, based in Georgia. Her other son, John Rivera (a 2010 WHS Graduate), is an E4 with the Air Force at Vandenberg A.F.B., in Santa Maria, Ca.
“It is so important that these kids have the opportunity to learn about respect and gratitude for our soldiers and veterans, and how we show that respect and thankfulness.” With the help of a dedicated principal, several V.I.P.s and enthusiastic students, Rivera did just that.
To open the 45 minute assembly, Williams Elementary Assistant Principal, Denise Conrado, instructed the students to rise to their feet.
A special assembled Color Guard slowly marched from one end of the gym to the other, flags held high by Sgt.Hurley, Sgt.Sok, and Sgt.Shapiro of the U.S. Army.
Conrado and Safety Patrol Officers Shelby Little and Lizeth Madrigal led the assembly in the Flag Salute, followed by the Star Spangled Banner, performed by the W.M.S./W.H.S. chorus.
Conrado educated the assembly on the importance of giving thanks to the men and women veterans of the Armed Services.
“Veteran’s Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. Veterans,” said Conrado, “the price of freedom is high. We cannot afford to forget those willing to pay it.”
Conrado invited Mrs. Villanueva, a local veteran of the U.S. Marines, to demonstrate the proper folding of the flag, assisted by students Ernesto Ibarra and Jesus Garcia.
As the flag was carefully folded, Rivera provided the meaning of each fold, 13 in all.
Guest speaker, Sgt.Hurley, a member of the elite 101st Airborne Division, with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, received the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
Sgt. Hurley, spoke to the captivated audience about being in the service and the times he’d been in danger.
“Even after all I’ve been through, I still get nervous talking in front of all of you,” added Hurley.
Following Sgt.Hurley, a Williams High School band student and senior, Johnny Cervantes played “Taps”, the traditional, mournful bugle notes that signal the day’s end.
Emilliano Garcia, a fifth-grader of Williams Elementary, read his essay titled, “Veteran’s Day Means A Lot”. He noted “ever since my cousin Rueben “Boy” Lopez died (in Iraq), I realized how important life is, and we should enjoy every second of it.”
The ceremony came to a close with a power point presentation, narrated by Jennifer Love-Hewitt and entitled, “They Who Serve”.
The community would like to thank Toni Rivera for all her hard work; in addition to giving many thanks to each and every individual whom helped assemble the powerful and educational tribute.
Remember always that freedom is not free. It’s a privilege given and protected by the brave men and women of the Armed Services.