At Nottingham Elementary this year, the Student Council sponsored a first annual A Salute to Heroes with more than a dozen veterans related to students or staff, as well as first responders from SBISD’s Police Dept. and from Precinct 5 Constable offices showing up for their Nov. 11 special program.
Local military veterans and first responders paraded through the hallways while a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA played through the PA system.
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Students lined the hallways, waving flags and cheering on their guests, who were high-fived throughout the school’s brightly decorated corridors.
At a later breakfast reception, Student Council members handed out certificates of thanks to veterans, police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
Campus counselor Stacey Zubair helped organized the event, which she described as beautiful. “Most of those in attendance couldn’t help but shed a tear as our local brave men and women were honored,” she said.
At nearby Spring Forest Middle School, hundreds of students, staff and community members gathered for the 16th year in a row to honor the U.S. military veterans and family members who gather there for an early breakfast and formal program.
One compelling and emotionally charged moment every year at Spring Forest is an opening program march by veterans into the school’s gym where each vet earns the warm, enveloping applause of hundreds. The applause continues for many minutes, as long as the veterans keep coming.
Student Council members host the program and have key speaking roles. Local and even state-level politicians often make a point of attending.
This year’s guest speaker was retired U.S. Army Col. Bernie McCabe, grandfather of a Spring Forest Middle student. His awards include the Silver Star, two Bronze Star Medals for Valor and three Purple Hearts.
One highlight this year was a big student and staff fundraising effort. They raised $15,700, well over an initial $10,000 goal, for the Patriot Paws chapter at Texas A&M University. The College Station-based group trains local service dogs for returning vets who have special needs.
Lakoda, a 1-year old Labrador in training, attended the Spring Forest program. In honor of this year’s Patriot Paws gift, Texas A&M volunteers plan to appear at the school on Tuesday, Nov. 22, and announce that their next service dog trained will be named by the SBISD middle school.
Patriot Paws administrator Sarah Porper notes that service dogs can have a healing and calming effect on veterans, some of whom return to civilian life with anxieties and even panic attacks due to their experiences. Service dogs can save lives, too.
“They can be trained to get wheel chairs. They can get medicine bottles. There are dogs that get phones. One of the vets we serve had a stroke, and his dog picked up and brought a phone to him and he dialed 9-1-1,” she said.
Spring Forest Middle’s Jana Gwinn has helped organize this event for many years. Heritage Texas Properties and the school PTA play a key role as sponsors and day event volunteers.
Many other SBISD campuses support local or neighborhood campus events much like Nottingham Elementary.