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Twenty-one veterans were treated to a luncheon and emotional assembly last Friday, hosted by Cedar Hill students and faculty wishing to show their appreciation for the veterans’ sacrifices.
The 12th annual event proceeded despite being postponed by Hurricane Sandy, “because it’s such an important event to the Cedar Hill community and the local community,” according to Principal Dr. Michael Raj.
“As part of our lesson in respect for others, we try to impress upon the kids the importance of these veterans’ services,” he said.
Teachers Cathy Lundquist and Trudy Coppola planned the event weeks in advance, reaching out to the Cedar Hill community to invite local veterans. Music teachers Joyce Janowicz, Tina Shruba, and Anne Simon worked with the students on instrumental and vocal music presentations. Their hard work culminated in an event that “really touched my heart,” Janowicz said.
“I was so proud of the children and to be a part of that very special program. My father [who attended] is still talking about the afternoon,” she added.
The veterans were serenaded upon arrival by Cedar Hill’s Advanced Band, which played patriotic songs and was conducted by Simon.
“Each year, we see many familiar faces because our Montville veterans really enjoy this event,” Terry Becker, co-president of the Cedar Hill Home and School Association said.
The veterans and their guests were then treated to a luncheon in the school’s media center hosted by the school’s Character Education Committee. Student representatives from each class attended and interviewed the veterans to learn more about their military service. Attendees included members of many age groups and all branches of the military, including Towaco resident Chris Keezer, a Marine who is also a detective with the Montville Township Police Department. The Character Education Committee, students and two teachers who sponsor and conduct the school’s Connect with Respect anti-bullying program, and Cedar Hill’s Student Council co-hosted the event.
Raj added a touching personal story to the luncheon, describing his grandparents’ release from labor camp by American soldiers and showing a mess kit given to his grandfather by an American soldier – a set of flatware that Raj’s grandfather insisted upon using to eat with even at the most formal occasions.
At the conclusion of the luncheon, members of the fifth grade Character Education Committee called the veterans’ names individually and each vet was presented a red carnation and cards and drawings made by Cedar Hill students, thanking them for their service. The veterans were then escorted into the gymnasium, through halls lined by students who held their hands over their hearts, for a culminating assembly.
The assembly included the recitation of the pledge to the flag, the singing of “God Bless America,” several patriotic songs sung by various grades at the school, and a poignant song called “Thank You, Soldiers” sung by the fifth graders. The veterans were introduced to the assembled students, who applauded for each name. The assembly concluded with a rendition of the song “Taps” by bugler and Montville teacher Ken Odgers, who has participated in the assembly for many years. In tribute to the veterans, the assembled students exited the gymnasium in complete silence.
The assembly was attended by teachers and staff, parents, Montville Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Casey Shorter, Assistant Superintendent Andrea Selvaggi, and school board President Dr. Karen Cortellino.