Patriotic music filled the Active Adult Senior Center on Nov. 9th as fifth graders from West Elementary presented a special presentation for Veterans in Cullman County.

West Elementary students, under the instruction of Keenan Fowlkes, a member of the Army National Guard, designed a beautiful program that had the entire crowd in awe.

“They did such a wonderful job,” said Harold Thompson, a Veteran from Dodge City at the celebration. “It was such an honor to be here during this special ceremony.”

This special Veterans Day celebration is just one of many that took place throughout Cullman County.

During this specific celebration at the Active Adult Center, Senior United States Military Veterans were invited for a Veteran’s Day celebration to recongize their service to our country and its residents.

Boxed lunches were provided by Southern Eats. The West Elementary fifth graders mingled with all the veterans present before the program—designed to give back to and express gratitude for their local military heroes.

Stephanie Neal, the Activities Director at the Active Adult Center for Cullman City, said she likes to honor the Veterans of past and present because they have put their lives on the line to protect their freedoms; freedoms we enjoy every day.

“They have dedicated their lives to our country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment. I love to see the Veterans stand with pride for our flag and their country,” Neal said. “I love to see the people give a standing ovation and honor the Veterans for their service. It’s always such a heartwarming event.”

The school sponsored program, according to Fowlkes, began in the 1980s and has progressed tremendously over the years.

She shared that the planning starts place in the summer before school starts back. Once the students get into their routine at school, Fowlkes starts pulling the flag folding team to practice during her planning time. “After that, we begin whole group practices during their P.E. a couple of days a week.”

Fowlkes said there are a lot of little details that have to be taken care of in order to make the program a success. “You have to teach them what this program is all about so they know ‘why’ they are doing it.”

Students then have a lot to memorize such as the preamble ‘Alabama’ state song and the branches of service ‘(United States Armed Forces) Medley, according to Fowlkes.

There are around 130 kids in fifth grade at West who participated in this years’ presentation.

“I feel that it’s important to host a respectful program to honor those who serve our country,” said Fowlkes. “Whether in times of war or peace, veterans and their families devote their lives to the service of our great nation,” Fowlkes said. “Kids need to be taught that freedom is not free. Veterans have put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms that we hold dear. We must take time to honor them in our schools.”

Fowlkes said she truly believes students value practicing and then hosting the program each year.

“The kids enjoy doing this program so much, even though it takes a lot of their recess time,” she said. “I still have kids who come back to my classroom to tell me how much they loved honoring the veterans when they were in the program. I have had several students tell me they will be joining the military. I’ve even had some kids who have already graduated high school (who) are currently serving our country.”

Other senior centers throughout Cullman County also had their own special Veterans Day presentations, recognizing Veterans and honoring them by pinning them with an American Flag.

Kristie Calvert, the Cullman Senior Center manager, said she had almost 30 veterans recognized for their service during a special pinning ceremony.

“We always enjoy this day of recognition, by Mandi Lake and Southern Care Hospice, every year,” Calvert said. “It’s just a little token of appreciation for everything these men and women, as well as their families, sacrificed for our country.”

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