Aromas School honors veterans at annual assembly

Family members snap photos with their smartphones as Aromas School students perform "Sing the States" during the annual Veterans Day Assembly on Wednesday. (Photo by Erik Chalhoub/Register-Pajaronian)

AROMAS — For more than two decades, Aromas School has honored local veterans through song, dance and tokens of appreciation at its annual Veterans Day Assembly.

For those veterans who have attended it yearly, they noticed a few new touches Wednesday.

A score of kindergarteners cheered the veterans on as they made their way into the school’s Bruce W. Woolpert Gymnasium for the assembly, and as the finale of the performance, the older students performed “God Bless America” in sign language.

Aromas School teacher Terry Strasser said the students learned sign language specifically for the event.

“It’s an all-inclusive feature of the show,” she said.

Afterwards, many students sought the autographs of the more than 40 veterans in attendance, from various branches of the military.

Sixth-grader Piper Shankle, who has been performing in the assembly since kindergarten, stressed the importance of honoring veterans.

“They served this country so we can be here today,” she said. “It makes me feel important that I got the opportunity to do this.”

Fellow sixth-grader Scarlett Capuano agreed.

“They gave their lives for us, and we need to show them our respect,” she said.

As part of a tradition of the assembly, all veterans in the audience were invited to walk up to the microphone and state their name and branch of service. The veterans then receive a booklet called “Poems and Letters from the Heart,” featuring writings by Aromas School students.

Principal Heather Howell praised the work put in by the students and teachers to organize the assembly.

 “It amazes me every year,” she said, noting that about 250 students are involved, more than half the school’s student body. “It teaches our children how important it is to honor the veterans.”

Congressman Jimmy Panetta, who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, joined other elected officials such as Santa Cruz County Supervisor Greg Caput at the assembly.

“Our children get to understand and appreciate not only the service of our veterans, but what it means to live in this country, to live in this democracy,” he said.

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