Friday, November 21, 2014

Veterans Day at Spring Forest Middle School

More than 800 joined dozens and dozens of military veterans and their families for the annual Veterans Day Celebration on Nov. 11 at Spring Forest Middle School.

View more photos of the Veterans Day event >>

Like other annual gatherings at Spring Forest Middle, more than 80 veterans made the 14th annual Veterans Day observance here one of the bigger community events of its kind in west Houston once again.

Students and the Spring Forest Middle PTA host an early morning breakfast for the veterans and their families. The breakfast is followed by a program that includes an assembly recognition of every veteran in the gym. In recent years, Heritage Texas Properties has been the event sponsor.

Five Spring Forest Middle Student Council members – Isabella Terrazas, Zamar Salas, Thomas Suess, Elias Gelber and Elias Piskurich – were the event’s masters of ceremonies.

Other program highlights included Presentation of the Colors by the SBISD Naval Jr. ROTC; patriotic performances by the school orchestra, band and choir; and the stirring “Reveille” and “Celebration of Taps” as performed solo by Band Director Curtis Amrein.

This year’s event included a “God Bless the USA” slideshow, poetry reading, and a Veterans Day history, too.

Separately, Spring Forest Middle students raised $3,500 to help mail care packages to military men and women serving overseas.

Keynote speaker was Retired Army Col. Edward Dyer, who challenged students to embrace the learning opportunities in Spring Branch ISD and to make wise choices in all that they do.

A Waco native, Col. Dyer served in the U.S. Army from 1964 until 1996, and was awarded many honors including the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Army Commendation Medals and two Purple Hearts.

His Army assignments included being deputy of policy analysis on then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s staff from 1989-1992. Today, he lives in Katy with his wife of 47 years, Becky.

He challenges students to make the most of their educational opportunities, and he called teaching the nation’s most important profession. “Your education is a choice that can only be made by you,” he said, adding that “life is a series of choices.”

“There are no college scholarships in texting,” he warned the middle school group. “There are no college scholarships for taking Selfies. You have a great gift before you that many people do not have. You have a gift before you in education, and if you don’t unwrap it, you won’t ever know what’s inside.”

Col. Dyer walked the students through his Army career, which included a difficult time with the 23rd Infantry Division in Vietnam. The colonel knew famous figures from that 1960’s period that include the highly regarded General Colin Powell and controversial Second Lt. William Calley, convicted in the My Lai Massacre. Three hundred or more unarmed Vietnamese civilians were killed in two hamlets there.

“Life is a series of choices, and sometimes bad choices are made by good people in war time,” he said during his sobering remarks. He urged all students to make good choices throughout their lives, beginning with their education.

Read about veterans with ties to Spring Branch >>

In a separate program highlight, Air Force veteran and Operation Interdependence representative Jim Snell announced that Spring Forest students and families raised $3,500 to pay for overseas care package mailings to those currently serving.

Operation Interdependence, based in northwest Houston, assembles good bags for American troops and ships them worldwide. Last year, the group collected 14,000 items for soldier care packages.

Special guests at this year’s gathering included SBISD Board of Trustees members and Texas Rep. Jim Murphy, Dist. 133, which includes much of west Houston. The Texas legislator said that Veterans Day at Spring Forest Middle was one event date that he “absolutely” did not want to miss.

Spring Forest Middle Principal is Kaye Williams. Counselor Jan Gwinn began the program 14 years ago with several dozen veterans and their families.


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