By Terry Harris
The ongoing pandemic may have put a halt to some of Veterans Day traditions at Surry County Public Schools, but at 9 a.m. last Thursday morning, first graders stood excitedly but solemnly watching as Assistant Principal Natasha Myrick tied the traditional ribbon around the tree in the schoolyard in remembrance of the day.
“It was an absolutely gorgeous day,” explained Superintendent Serbrenia Sims, “and you could tell by the questions and answers from the kids that they had done some pre-work on Veterans Day. Their teachers had put in a lot of the legwork prior to the program to get the first graders prepared so they understood significance of what was about to happen as well as the concept of the ceremony.”
“This ceremony of tying a yellow ribbon around the tree here in remembrance actually is a tradition started many years ago by one of our former instruction assistants, Nancy Hall,” Sims said. “And after we recognized all the veterans we tried the ribbon around the tree, and students knew that that ribbon was a symbol – another term they had recently studied.”
As the students, under the direction of chorus teacher Daniel Cook, sang one verse of My Country Tis of Thee, Sims said the singing was fairly subdued.
“We ended up saying, ‘We can do better than that’,” she said. “And then they sang it again so enthusiastically that it could have brought tears to your eyes.”
First Sgt. Anthony Harris, who runs the Junior ROTC program at the high school, was the speaker for the event. He explained that the significance of Veterans Day is to honor those who have served in the past or are currently serving in all branches of the armed services.
In preparation for the day, students had been given the opportunity to turn in names of veterans in their families so that the children would be engaged, and these were compiled into a long list.
“Then Principal Ann Marie Nelin and Assistant Principal Natasha Myrick recognized veterans in the community by alternating calling off their names, one by one,” Sims added.
One deviation from celebrations of Veterans Day in previous years at SCPS was the use of a yellow and blue ribbon – the school colors – donated by Williamsburg Floral, rather than the traditional solid yellow ribbon. Another was that other well-loved portions of the school’s celebration of Veterans Day had to be omitted this year.
“Typically we would have multiple Veterans Day programs in the division,” Sims said. “With the one in the Elementary School being outside, we were still able to do that during a pandemic. However, in years past we would have a really large Veterans Day program at the middle where people were invited into the school for a speaker and a formal program followed by lunch and socializing for veterans. Because of Covid we couldn’t do that this year, but I’m still thankful that we had the opportunity to do the outdoor program at Surry. And once we are beyond the pandemic again I look forward to resuming our indoor program, as the veterans as well as the staff and students and I look forward to it every year. It’s a shame that we are having to alter so many of our traditions. But I’m just so glad that we are at least able to be back in school again and looking forward to bringing the other traditions back in the future once we are able to do so.”