By Terry Harris

Surry County Elementary and Middle Schools observed their Traditional Veterans Day commemoration last week with two special programs designed to give students a better understanding of the meaning of the day, according to SCPS Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims.

On Thursday, November 10, in an event largely produced by Middle School students, local veterans were treated to a sit-down meal and social hour at noon, followed by a special program featuring some new twists this year. 

The veterans marched down the center aisle WHERE to the sound of Proud to be an American performed by Fernando Sanchez, surrounded by students, faculty, staff, family and friends.  

One of the highlights of this year’s program – the first to be held inside since the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic brought on distancing requirements – was the sharing of a video of Percell Bailey. The100+ year-old veteran, who also served as Grand Marshall of the Homecoming parade this year, gave students a different perspective of what it meant to be a vet, as Dr. Sims later explained.

“He talked about having been drafted into the military,” she said, “and told them that while he had no choice but to serve, but he was proud to serve his country. That was good for the students to know.”

Other high points were an address by history teacher Arthur Burdick, retired USAF, on honor, respect, and service, flag presentation by the JROTC Color Guard, and the playing of Taps by SCPS Band Teacher Rashad Beaver accompanied by the Drumline. 

“It was great to bring  the tradition back where we provide a sit down lunch and program to honor our vets,” said Sims, “and wonderful that all faculty, staff, and students at our Middle School had the opportunity to participate.”

On Friday, even the misty rain did not hamper the Veterans Day Program for the first grade classes.

“We just moved it inside the gym!” Sims explained.  “JROTC Cadet Landis gave a brief, very nice talk on what Veterans Day is, then First Grade teacher Melinda Robertson explained the tradition of our annually tying a yellow ribbon around a big old tree on the grounds in honor of our veterans before she and Principal Preston McKellar braved the wind and rain to actually go outside and tie that ribbon to the tree.”

Sims said that one important addition to this year’s observance of the day was having a veteran speak on the significance of Veterans Day from his perspective, relating how thankful he was to have served to help allow the freedoms we have, like being able to get up in the morning and decide what to do, what  to wear, based on our wishes – so many things we take for granted - due to the service veterans have provided through the years.

“It just simply was two great days of educating our students on the value of veterans and their family members who have served in the armed forces,” Sims added, “so that they understand what it mean when people say  to a veteran, ‘Thank you for your service.’”