A rousing rendition of “God Bless the USA” was the highlight and finale of Monday’s first Veterans Day celebration at Bartow Elementary Academy which also featured former Bartow Elementary student, Bartow police officer and U.S. Marine Cpl. Cory Suttle as its keynote speaker.
Other special guests of honor seated on the BEA stage were veterans Karen Reese who served in the Army National Guard, Brian Dillahay who was wounded while serving in the U.S. Army in the Middle East and Clifton Lewis who served as a military cryptologist in various locations throughout the world.
Summerlin Academy cadets posted the colors, Tiyah Wilson led the Pledge of Allegiance, Nicholas Tolento explained how Veterans Day began and the BEA Singing Knights Chorus lead the singing of the National Anthem.
All set the stage for Suttle’s keynote address.
The auditorium was filled to standing-room-only with students, faculty and family members along with a dozen community veterans who had places of honor at the base of the state.
Decked out in his uniform, shining with a chest full of medals, Suttle talked briefly of his experiences, recounting his days as a student in that very school.
“I was in Ms. Black’s third-grade class, Ms. Clark’s fourth-grade and Ms. McGrath’s fifth-grade class,” he told the packed house. “As I look around I see some of the teachers and staff that I remember from my years here are still teaching and doing wonderful things in the lives of kids.”
The wounded veteran continued, stressing that learning is a lifelong endeavor, saying, “I have changed in the nearly 20 years since I was a student here but one thing has not changed. I have never stopped learning … that is one of the best and most important parts of life.”
Suttle concluded saying, “We live in a place where anything is possible because people have done amazing things to keep us free. Always remember on Veterans Day why we celebrate. It is a day to honor those who have protected us and kept us free.”
The program ended with “God Bless the USA” led by soloists Annabelle Joiner and Dexter Jenkins and closing comments from principal April Campbell.
The program was developed and coordinated by music teacher Anna Jones.