At 8:15 a.m., Monday, Nov. 11, retired U.S. Marine Cpl. Cory Suttle will be all spit and polish as he prepares for Bartow Elementary Academy’s first Veterans Day program.
Suttle will be joined by the Summerlin Institute Honor Guard; the BEA Singing Knights; principal April Campbell; BEA fifth-grader Nick Tolento; Taylor Sims, BEA media specialist; and Army veterans Karen Reese and Clifton Lewis for the kindergarten through fifth-grade student body gathering to salute the nation’s military.
Arranged by music teacher Anna Jones, the program will also feature solo renditions of patriotic songs by Annabelle Joiner and Dexter Jenkins, followed by a rendition of a nation-centric song in which the entire student body will join the choristers. Jones said she was keeping the finale song a secret to surprise those attending the special commemoration of veterans.
Suttle, a former Bartow resident who served two tours in Iraq while on active Marine duty as a combat infantry mortar man, will deliver the keynote speech, says Jones.
Suttle attended Bartow Elementary Academy, Bartow Middle School and ultimately graduated from Bartow High School before joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 2004.
“It’s important for kids to know what veterans have done and what it takes to keep what we have,” he said recently. “They need to know that people are willing to go out and put it on the line to protect what we have here.”
He should know.
He brought home a number of service medals, including the Navy and Marine Achievement Medals from his tours, as well as a Purple Heart medal, awarded only to those wounded in combat.
The 27-year-old speaks but softly of his service.
All told, Suttle spent about 18 months in the combat-stricken Middle Eastern country, much of it under fire, some scattered, he explained, and other “pretty heavy stuff.”
When recounting how he suffered his combat injury, he explained his unit was on patrol in Fallujah when it came under fire.
“It was a complex attack on our position,” he explained. “We were under fire for about 45 minutes.”
He was hit in the arm by flying shrapnel but maintained his position until his unit had control of the battlefield. He was rushed to a nearby field hospital where he underwent surgery to repair his elbow and recovered on site in the war-torn city.
“I got well pretty fast and was restricted to light duty for a while, but I really wanted to get back in the field with my unit.”
That 2007 tour, his second, was his last as an active duty Marine.
Since then, he explains, as he also outlines his talk to the students, his goals has been gaining an education.
“I learned so much at school and in the Marines,” he said. “But the message I want to give kids (is) to always keep learning. I learned when I went to school here. I learned at my other schools. I learned in the Marines. I learned in college and at the police academy, and now I learn every day when I’m on patrol.”
Suttle joined the Lakeland Police Department in 2012.
The Monday program should last about an hour, according to Jones, who also extended an invitation to all area veterans and to the general public. She added that reserved seating will be available to veterans in a special honor section of the school auditorium. The school is located at 590 S. Wilson St., Bartow.