by Shalah Russell | November 19, 2018 8:00 am
On November 9, 2018 Riverside Brookfield High School held its annual Veteran’s Day assembly. The school implemented a modified schedule which shortened classes and allowed the assembly to be held after second period. During that time, people who have served in the United States Armed Forces were honored by the school and its students.
This celebration has been going on for about 15 years and it is a really big deal for the school. Much time and effort are put into preparing for it every year. Usually history teacher, John Fields, is in charge of planning the event, but this year Social Studies teacher Erin Cunningham took on that role.
“This was my first year doing it [organizing the assembly]. In the past it has been Mr. Fields. I started the process a month and a half ago,” said Cunningham. “I asked Mr. Fields for a lot of his material. He was really helpful and he showed me what he’s done in the past.”
The first part in planning the assembly is contacting all of the veterans who would like to attend. There are various ways the school finds people who are willing to participate in it. There is a list of veterans who have signed up for previous years and veterans who have been suggested by teachers or students.
“We recycle the list every year. At some point, I sent an email to all of the teachers in the school to ask if they know anyone who would like to come. If they do, they give us their names and addresses and we send that person an invite,” said Cunningham. “Invites go to different organizations in the area as well.”
The Riverside Brookfield Landmark also put out a press release in order to spread the word to any interested veterans.
After she compiled a list of potential contenders, Cunningham conversed with other people at RB who had critical roles in the assembly’s preparation. Aubrey Prince and James Baum are in charge of the music department.
“Leading up to the event, it was just a matter of me contacting all of the people involved. I talked to Mr. Baum and Mrs. Prince for the music part of it; I made sure my script corresponded with their progression of songs,” said Cunningham.
Baum and Prince focused on soundcheck during practices and helped with the setup of the gym which included placement of chairs and the number of risers needed.
Senior Noah Hoadley announced the individual military branches’ songs during the assembly and sung with the ensemble.
“The armed forces salute is the best song that we ever sing so everyone easily memorized it. We don’t usually spend too much time preparing because we sing it every year,” said Hoadley.
Cunningham also believes that because of the experience RB has with hosting this assembly, there is an ease that comes with preparing for it.
“All of the key players met on the Monday before the assembly to make sure everybody had what they needed. But we have been doing this ceremony for so long so it’s a well-oiled machine. Everybody knows their parts” said Cunningham.
Another essential group to the assembly was the National Color Guard. Junior, Alexis Vasiliadis, is a member of the Color Guard and participated in putting up and taking down the American Flag.
“I was the national color bearer. I held the American flag and my job was to lead my flight, which is our group of cadets and make sure that they looked the best. I called the commands as well,” said Vasiliadis. “Civil Air Patrol is run outside of school. We have people from all different high schools and junior highs meet at the National Guard Armory on Cermak Road.”
Vasiliadis, the other members of the color guard, and Cunningham all collaborated in order to figure out how they would plan out the assembly. They even discussed certain things that might be concerning or too risky to include.
“We were able to talk with her [Cunningham] and Mr. Mannon about how to coordinate everything; including some concerns about the rifles [being used in the routine]. In the end, we were able to use the rifles because they are used to protect the national colors and are a sign of respect,” said Vasiliadis.
The final step in planning the Veterans Day assembly is assigning veterans to each room. After the assembly, students went back with their second hour teachers to have a one on one conversation with a veteran. At this time, students could ask questions and get to know one of the people they honor on this holiday.
“That [deciding how to distribute veterans into classrooms] is probably the most difficult part. When the veterans RSVP, they have a card that they fill out that says if they are attending, who’s coming with them, and if they would like to speak to a classroom,” said Cunningham.
“Once we had those RSVPs, it was my job to start assigning people to rooms. This year was difficult because we didn’t have enough veterans for every classroom. So I had to double up some rooms.”
The amount of effort put into the Veterans Day assembly is worth it. It is a day that is taken seriously and a day that both the school and the community look forward to.
“I have received some calls from veterans afterward and they were just so touched. There was one guy I talked to that has been to other schools’ ceremonies and he was blown away by ours,” said Cunningham.
Senior Gillian Gaines recited the pledge of allegiance at Friday’s assembly. She says that it is an honor to be given that role and to be doing something that recognizes everything that the veterans do for the people of this country.
“I think it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had at RB. Veterans mean a lot to me because of my family and I appreciate what they do for us. Being able to say something that gives them pride was really important to me. It was an honor for me to be a part of it,” said Gaines.
Cunningham gets positive feedback from many veterans who have been in the assembly or seen it online. She is happy that the school’s efforts to show their gratitude has been successful.
“They [the veterans] have been coming year after year. I know it means a lot to them so the fact that we, as a school, can honor them, especially Vietnam veterans, who weren’t originally appreciated when they came back. It’s late, but at least it’s something to show that the younger generation does care,” said Cunningham.
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