Granite Park Jr. High goes all out to honor veterans
Dec 10, 2019 03:00PM
● By Bill Hardesty
A World War II truck at the entrance of Granite Park Junior High School for their Veterans Day Celebration.(Bill Hardesty/City Journals)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
"My mother's first deployment was when I was 9 months old. It didn't affect me much. But when she was deployed again when I was 9 for nine months, that was hard," a Granite Park Junior High School (GPJHS) student said during a Veterans Day Celebration assembly.
The assembly was held Nov. 11 at GPJHS. The theme was "My Heritage of Service."
The celebration began outside. A red, white and blue balloon arch was over the main entrance. A World War II jeep and a truck were parked on the grass and flags lined the front.
Around the auditorium, students and visitors enjoyed more military displays in the hall. Tables were covered with military uniforms and equipment dating back to WWII. There were individuals dressed in period uniforms to explain the items.
At the auditorium entrance were large plaques honoring veteran relatives of GPJHS students.
The assembly started with the GPJHS choir singing the national anthem and student, Zeph Hoko, leading the Pledge of Allegiance. The colors were posted by the Scottish American Military Society Utah Post 1847.
According to the society's web page, "Our mission is to preserve and promote Scottish and American Armed Forces customs, traditions, and heritage in the state of Utah. Our membership is composed of active duty military, veterans, and supportive spouses who share a common interest in Scottish-American heraldry, patriotism, and service."
Stated another way — "Just think American Legion in kilts," one Color Guard member said.
Music, video and a challenge
The assembly continued with a performance by the James E. Moss Elementary student choir. They sang "America" and "God Bless the USA."
Two videos by student videographers, the GPJHS A-staff, was shown. The first highlighted students talking about veterans in their family. Sometimes a grandpa and sometimes a parent. The second video was accompanied by a member of the Utah Pipe Band.
Between the videos, student Rhiannon Peterson spoke. She told her fellow students of two ways they can always honor veterans. One is to say thank you when you see one and always put your hand over your heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.
Stacy Mollinet, president-elect of Utah PTSA, honored the students and staff of GPJHS with a large banner that was displayed in one of the halls. The banner recognized GPJHS's commitment to celebrate military children and families over the past three years.
One of the highlights of the assembly was when five GPJHS students assembled the Battlefield Cross followed by playing of “Taps” and a moment of silence.
"We will together consider the ultimate sacrifice of those soldiers who never made it home — those for whom these crosses were made," Aaron Wilson, the principal of GPJHS, remarked.
The Battlefield Cross or the Fallen Solider Battle Cross or simply the Battle Cross was used in WWI and WWII to identify the temporary grave of a fallen soldier. His rifle was stuck in the ground and his helmet placed on the stock of the rifle. This allowed Graves Registration Service personnel to remove the body for proper burial. The Battlefield Cross also became a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice of war.
Even though it is called a cross, it has no religious significance.
The current version of the Battlefield Cross consists of a rifle, helmet, boots and dog tags. Together, they have become a symbol of loss and mourning for the living.
The meaning of each part is not clear. According to the National Museum of American History: "Interpretations vary regarding the meaning of the components, and how they are placed. The rifle facing downward means the soldier was killed in action; a rifle with a bayonet stuck in the ground tells us the soldier went down fighting. It’s not hard to interpret the placement of the boots or the presence of the dog tags: the soldier has marched the final march to battle, and he will never be forgotten."
The assembly closed with a combined effort of the student video crew, dance company, and choir students. A medley of anthems of each branch of the U.S. military was played. Veterans of each branch were asked to stand and be recognized when their anthem was played. Students were invited to stand when the anthem was played of the armed forces branch in which their family member serves or has served.
One veteran honored was Sergeant First Class (retired) Neil Christiansen.
"Veterans Day is a day we can spread the knowledge and pride we have in this country to the next generation," Christiansen said.