Fifth graders at Ashley IB Magnet Elementary School got a history lesson and a boost for a future learning experience earlier this week.
Representatives from the HARRY Veteran Community Outreach Services visited the school Monday to talk with students about their experiences as military servicemen. The group left something behind for the children as well: a $1500 check to help support the students’ upcoming field trip to Washington, D.C.
“This is the first year that we’ve done it. A lot of other schools have the opportunity to go (to Washington), but for Ashley, this is their first year. The cost is $200 (per student), so that’s been a challenge. We’ve been trying to raise as much money as we can,” Assistant Principal Alicia Bailey said. “This will make a tremendous difference with us meeting our (fundraising) goal and helping our kids to get there. It means a lot to have support from the community.”
The children also expressed their thanks to veterans Jerry Anderson, Alfonzo Boyd, Melvin Davis Jr., Larry Eubanks, Bobby Ingram and Donald Williams by presenting them with handmade cards.
“It’s awesome. We’re going to see the capital of the United States. I’m really interested to see the Martin Luther King statue because it resembles peace for our country,” ten year-old Jirair Noyola said of the trip, which is slated for June 6-7. “…Thanks for every HARRY veteran for helping us.”
Purple Heart Vietnam veteran Davis said the members of HARRY were thrilled to be able to support the school with their fundraising efforts.
“I just wanted to be a part of this occasion to see the faces of those kids. I am sure they are going to be tickled to death in taking this trip. It’s been an honor for me (to help),” said the retired RJR employee and grandfather of one. “I think it’s our responsibility to do this, just as the pioneers … laid the trails for us.”
Prior to making the check presentation, the veterans took time out to talk candidly with the students about their military service and the work that they do through HARRY, a nonprofit which serves veterans and their families.
“Defending our country is one of the most important services that any citizen in the United States can perform,” Anderson, a Vietnam veteran, told the students. “As members of the military, we’ve had to go across the seas to defend the things that America believes in. We all put our lives at risk so we could continue to have the things that we are accustomed to.”
HARRY Founder Ciat Shabazz told the youngsters about her brother, the late Harry Lee Smith, a former Marine for whom the organization is named. Smith died of cancer five years ago. Shabazz believes her brother’s condition would have never worsened to the terminal level if he had received proper care at the VA hospitals he visited.
Though she did not share her brother’s struggles with them, Shabazz told the children that she founded HARRY VCOS to help ensure that every veteran gets the respect and benefits he or she has earned as a former member of the Armed Forces.
“We take for granted all of the securities that we have here at home. Instead of just saying thank-you in my heart, I wanted to do something,” she related. “All of the members of my family served in the military, dating back to the Civil War and I wanted to show my appreciation. We can’t take that lightly what they’ve done for us.”
Eubanks said he didn’t have the luxury of deciding whether he entered the military – he was drafted – but he told the youngsters that he felt it was important to uphold his duty as a citizen and serve honorably.
“I wanted to represent my family well, and I wanted to represent myself,” he remarked. “I had to stand up like a man.”
Williams reminded the children of the importance of listening to their teachers.
“I worked on helicopters big enough to put jeeps inside. I would never have dreamed that I’d be able to work on a helicopter like that,” he said. “I paid attention and listened to my instructor, and that let me do that.”
Fifth grader Tyson Banks listened to the group’s remarks with a special veteran in mind: his father, the late James Alfred Carter Jr., an Army vet who died in February. Tyson carries the funeral program with him in his pocket every day. The 11-year-old said he didn’t know much about his father’s military service, but hearing from the other veterans made him proud.
“The best thing about it is they actually came,” he said. “I thought they would just send the check to us.”
For more information about HARRY VCOS, visit http://harry4you.com or call 336-725-3410.