SOUTH PLAINFIELD - On Nov. 4, Roosevelt Elementary School continued their longtime Veterans Day tradition of honoring veterans with a very special performance. Students sang a number of patriotic songs for local veterans, honoring the heroes who sat in uniform before them.
“I was absolutely blown away by this service,” said Principal Dr. Robert Goman. “The students worked very hard preparing. Our teachers worked very hard preparing for this. The veterans were so happy. That’s what it’s all about, thanking the veterans.”
“This is my first time here and it was great,” said Veteran Lee Hendrickson, who served in the Navy in Vietnam. “I’m very much impressed by these kids. I don’t know how long it took them to do this, but it was incredible. They are a great bunch of kids.”
Parents lined the back of the gym filled with students and faculty. Everyone stood and applauded as the veterans entered, one by one, led by members of student council.
“Thank you for coming today,” said Goman. “We have a great program for you. Today is about honoring all our veterans who have served in the military. Our students have worked diligently, preparing the songs you are about to hear.”
The children of student council spoke, reminding all that Veterans Day honors the men and women who served the United States during war time and peace time. The students had prepared songs to remember each arm of the military, including the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corp, Merchant Mariners and Navy.
Everyone stood for the salute to the flag, an act with even deeper meaning on that day, as the veterans stood before them at attention with reverence for the flag and freedoms it represents that they sacrificed so much to protect.
Introduced by student council members, the children performed patriotic songs that have brought pride to the hearts of Americans for decades. Roosevelt Music Teacher Sharon Perez led each group of students. She had worked with the children for weeks preparing for the day.
The first grade began the performance with “America,” followed by the second grade singing, “America the Beautiful,” using sign language to gesture their sentiments. The student council narrator explained that the lyrics of "America the Beautiful" were inspired by a poem written in 1893 by Katherine Lee Bates, who had been deeply moved by the beauty of Pikes Peak in Colorado.
The first graders then performed a medley of songs including, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” one of the most popular songs in the American songbook, dating back to the Civil War when Americans welcomed the soldiers home. Each song was introduced by students recounting its patriotic significance. The medley continued with “Over There,” one of the most popular songs of World War One, followed by “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” and “Anchors Aweigh.”
Goman took a moment to thank Borough Councilwoman Christine Faustini, South Plainfield Board of Education member Debbie Boyle and State Senator Patrick Diegnan for attending the event. He also thanked the South Plainfield administration for their endless support of students, faculty, parents and administration.
“We have an amazing faculty here,” said Goman. “I want to thank you all for your flexibility in making days like this a success. And lastly I want to thank Ms. Perez for organizing this event and the musical productions as well.”
Continuing their tribute to military heroes by singing the oldest and boldest of the armed service songs, the second grade sang a medley of songs, which included, “Air Force Blue,” “The Marine Hymn,” “Semper Paratus,” “Heave Ho, My Lads, Heave Ho.”
The first and second graders then recited the poem, "Veterans Day," by Kate Englehart Clark, followed by "Taps," the twenty-four note melody played to signal the end of the day and pay tribute to fallen soldiers.
Together the first and second grades sang, "Thank You, Soldiers," written by Michael and Angela Souders, in gratitude for their sacrifice and bravery.
The entire auditorium was then asked to stand and join in singing, “God Bless America.” In unity, the voices filled the auditorium, one proud voice, honoring their country.
Goman then called to the stage former teacher Michelle Santelli and her father Joe Ferrara, who is a veteran of the Army, serving in Vietnam, 82 Airborne Division, as well as member of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 452. Students presented Ferrara with cards they wrote to send to military stationed all over the world.
“I’m a member of Operation Jersey Cares, which sends out goods and packages to troops overseas at no cost to anybody except ourselves,” said Ferrara. “This year, we sent over a million pounds of goods to our troops overseas. Volunteers help pack up packages and they get shipped overseas. They go everywhere, just not in combat zones, where ever our troops may be overseas, the packages get to them. Somehow, someway, we’ll get them the packages.”
Ferrara accepted the cards handwritten by the students with gratitude, assuring them that their beautiful words will mean so much to their recipients overseas.
“So if you see a veteran say thank you,” said Goman as he closed the performance. “This is my first Veterans Day here at Roosevelt and I can say, I am truly impressed. If we could all give our veterans a round of applause!”
As students left the auditorium, many stopped to shake hands with the veterans, thanking them for their service to our country.
“I’ve come here before and when I came here the first time, I finally felt like I was welcomed home from Vietnam,” said William Humphrey, Army. “This is just a fabulous show and I know the other vets feel like that too. It’s something special to us.”
“I was talking to a WWII vet who was here for the performance,” said Goman. “He said that days like this are what makes our country great. Appreciation for our veterans is really important and truly great.”