Halstead students honor veterans with parade
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Days before Veterans Day, the students at Hettie Halstead Elementary School honored the veterans in their lives with songs and a parade through the school last Thursday.
The annual Veterans Day program began in the school gymnasium, with veterans and active duty soldiers and parents alike sitting in chairs across from the students who sat in rows on the floor. The students performed patriotic songs by age group, with kindergarten and first grade paired up, second and third grade paired up and fourth and fifth graders paired up, finishing with the National Anthem. The Halstead Step Team performed following the songs.
Students who had a veteran family member were allowed to walk with them, while other students lined the hallways with their classmates and waved their little American flags as veterans walked from the gym to the cafeteria where punch and a patriotic cake homemade by Sandra Ziehlke waited.
The oldest veteran present was Principal Billie Diaz’s grandfather, Everette White, 83, who joined the Army in 1953 and served 20 years in the Army and 25 years in civil service, all in aviation. White spent more than 10 years in Germany, deployed to Vietnam twice and to Korea once. He retired from the Army as an E7/Sgt. 1st Class. White worked in flight simulators at Hood Field for about 10 years and spent 15 years working at Robert Gray Army Airfield before retiring as the airfield manager, he said.
White has attended the Halstead parade for three or four years now, he said.
“It’s outstanding,” White said. “It’s great.”
Before the parade, the veterans employed at Halstead were also recognized, with their names being called along with their years and branches of service.
Special Education teacher Karen Patterson was one of those recognized. Patterson served 20 years, 7 months and 4 days in the Army. She started as an admin specialist for the first few years. Her last duty station was Fort Hood, where she served as an intel specialist, processing security clearances and did paperwork for generals.
Patterson has been at Halstead for 14 years, the first year as a volunteer. She spent six years teaching Pre-Kindergarten and two years teaching first grade, before being hired as a Special Education teacher, which she’s been for the past five years.
Patterson said she has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a minor in History and a master’s degree in Special Education.
“I always wanted to be a teacher, I just took a roundabout way of getting here,” Patterson said.
Seeing her school celebrate veterans made Patterson happy.
“This is awesome. It makes me really proud,” Patterson said. “We do it up right.”
Assistant Principal Heather Calhoun also served in the military. Calhoun spent 12 years in the Army, first as a medic and then in Human Resources before spending her last seven years as a recruiter, which she said didn’t make it easy for family time.
“I have four kids. I wanted to be off when they’re off,” Calhoun said. “I wanted to just be able to be there for them, which is actually why I ended up getting out of the military after 12 years.”
Calhoun became an educator and taught at Copperas Cove High School before becoming an administrator this year. This year marked her first year as an assistant principal and her first year at Hettie Halstead Elementary. This was her first year also experiencing the parade and festivities at the school. Calhoun said that the upper level schools don’t really put on events like this, so it was a new experience.
“I was blown away. It was really honorable,” Calhoun said. “I got to be a part of it, and my boys go here, so I got to march with them. It was fun. They were little when I got out, so they don’t understand the sacrifice that was made, the sacrifice that soldiers make.”
Calhoun said it was neat to see how connected the school and its students were to the military and to veterans. She said she hadn’t realized just how many veterans were connected to the students.
“It kind of opens our eyes to more of the needs that our students have and just it helps us, especially as administrators, to better support them because we can see the bigger need,” Calhoun said.
Experiencing the parade and Veterans Day program at the elementary level, with her two youngest children, showed her a whole other experience too, she said.
“It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things that my two older ones had to go through on their own, and I can understand now the belonging aspect of it and how important it is for kids to belong,” Calhoun said.
As a soldier, Calhoun missed out on the little school events that her older children experienced, she said.
“The sacrifice that soldiers make, it really is- it’s the greatest act of love I think,” Calhoun added. “They can never come back and return to their families when they leave, so it’s just a big deal, and any military community, we don’t always make it a big deal, because we’re so familiar with it but it is a big deal, so I liked it [the parade.]”