Veterans, students, staff, and guests enjoy most meaningful hour-long event
By Jim Beers
CHESTER – For years the Chester Grade School has hosted local veterans at a school-wide assembly to honor those who served America. This year was no exception, in fact the 2023 event was one of the best!
Local Chester Marine Veterans Lee Hollaway, Steve Herrell, and Jack Lindsey enjoy a light breakfast and camaraderie in the Chester Grade School Cafeteria prior to the start of the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly. With Lindsey is his granddaughter, Kaile. Jim Beers Photo
Mrs. Priscilla Martinez, Chester Grade School teacher, and two of her students, Harper Cushman and Zander Martin, await the beginning of the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly Thursday November 9. Jim Beers Photo
Veterans began arriving shortly after the ringing of the morning bell signaling the start of the school day Thursday November 9. As veterans arrived they were met at the front door and invited to gather in the school cafeteria for refreshments including coffee, doughnuts, and other breakfast items.
Some of the youngest Chester Grade School students march through Chester Grade School Lobby on their way the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly Thursday November 9. Notice the patriotic artwork and decorations created by the student body. Jim Beers
The lobby of the school entryway was decorated with bright patriotic colors along with pictures and other homemade artistic Veterans Day attire. By 8:30 a.m. the cafeteria was filled with a combination of students who were doing a fantastic job of serving their guests, veterans, family members and staff who were mingling and welcoming those who had arrived for the assembly.
Chester Grade School students enjoy the 2023 Veterans Day Assembly Thursday November9. The event was deemed one of the best by students, staff, veterans and guests. Jim Beers Photo
At approximately 9:00 a.m. most students had arrived in the gymnasium from their classrooms and the bleachers slowly and methodically filled, along with about 10-feet on the gym floor in front of the bleachers.
The Chester Grade School Band, directed by Sue Colonel, provided instrumental music at the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly. The group performed “Invincible” and “Marches of the Armed Forces”, much to the enjoyment of all in attendance. Jim Beers Photo
The Chester 6th Grade Band, under the direction of Sue Colonel, performed, “American Pride” during the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly. The young musicians did a great job of entertaining the large crowd attending the event. Jim Beers Photo
The remainder of the gym floor was filled with chairs in which to seat approximately 50 veterans, the speaker’s podium and the Chester Grade School 6th Grade Band and Junior High Band.
Students at Chester Grade School decorated the CGS Gymnasium with various pieces of art and other patriotic decorations in preparation for the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly. Jim Beers Photo
Leading up to the event students learned about Veterans Day in their classrooms and some prepared cards, pictures and other festive decorations to make the event special for the honored guests.
Chester Grade School students march into the gymnasium for the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly during the parade led by a student color guard of Larne Luchavez and Ethan Werner. Jim Beers Photo
The official assembly began with the customary “Student Parade” led by a Color Guard led by Larne Luchavez and Ethen Werner. Once all veterans, students, and staff were in place, Chester Grade School Principal, Bill Grafton gave a warm welcome to everyone attending the assembly.
Chester Grade School Principal Bill Grafton welcomes everyone to the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly. Grafton served as Master of Ceremonies for the event and praised the students, teachers, and staff at CGS for their efforts to organize and present the fine program for the veterans in attendance. He also thanked the veterans for their service to the country. Jim Beers Photo
Mr. Grafton then led everyone in reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance”. Immediately following the Pledge, Sue Colonel, CGS Band Director & General Music Director, led the playing and singing of the National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Sue Colonel, Chester Grade School Music Director, leads the student body in the singing of the National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly accompanied by Vicky Beers on piano. Jim Beers Photo
Throughout the entire event, numerous Junior High Students served as “Masters of Ceremony” for the event and gave brief introductions to each upcoming speaker, song, or activity that was next on the program.
Junior High Speakers or “Masters of Ceremony” included Mitchell Liter, Morgan Nanney, Pedro Hernandez, Yamilett Tuentes, Brock Fuller, Alden Davitz, Caitlyn Hargis, Layla White, and Edgardo Lazu-Colon.
Next on the program was a very fitting instrumental song directed by Sue Colonel and performed by the CGS Junior High Band, titled, “Invincible”. The song was well received and enjoyed by all.
The CGS 3rd and 4th grade classes sang, “America the Beautiful”, complete with choreography at the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly. The segment of the program was led by Sue Colonel, CGS General Music Instructor. She was assisted by 3rd and 4th grade teachers and staff. The young musicians were wonderful and did fantastic! The performance as accompanied by Vicky Beers on piano. Jim Beers Photo
The 3rd and 4th Grade students then sang, “America the Beautiful” as led and directed by Sue Colonel, General Music Director. The entire group did a glorious job of singing the well-known patriotic American favorite and even added choreography utilizing red, white, and blue plastic dinner plates. Mrs. Colonel and the respective classroom teachers did a wonderful job of organizing and preparing the young students for this performance.
The special Guest Speaker of the day was former Chester Grade School and Chester High School student and former college football player and United States Marine, Todd Cowan. Todd is the son of Mike and Ginger Cowan. Ginger was a former CGS Paraprofessional who was well-liked by all.
Todd Cowan, son of Mike and Ginger Cowan, was the Guest Speaker at the 2023 Chester Grade School Veterans Day Assembly Thursday November 9. Cowan, a former Marine, spoke to the assembly about various aspects of Veterans Day and what sacrifices veterans have made to help make America safe and free. Cowan, a former Chester Grade Scholl student, Chester High School student, College Football player and United States Marine did a wonderful job and related well to the students at CGS. Jim Beers Photo
Mr. Cowan gave a fantastic presentation to the students of CGS and brought his messages to the level of the grade school students, kindergarten through 8th grade. Todd reminisced about his days at CGS and noted that he enjoyed his time as a Chester Grade School student.
Students wave their American Flags during the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly Thursday November 9. Jim Beers Photo
He then asked various student to describe what a veteran was. Following numerous funny and somewhat amusing definitions provided by younger students, Cowan enlightened everyone about what a veteran was and spoke about the importance of the sacrifices made by veterans to help keep America free and safe.
Those who are very familiar with former Marine Todd Cowan know that he can be very humorous and comical, but several times during his presentation, Todd became extremely serious and even “choked-up” when describing the price that many veteran men and women paid in service to their country.
Throughout the presentation students paid close attention and it was quite apparent that Mr. Cowan had their full attention. Through both the fun and comical portions as well as the serious, emotional portions of his messages, students were focused on Mr. Cowan. Todd Cowan was definitely one of the best and most well-liked speakers to ever present at a CGS Veterans Day Assembly.
After a huge round of applause for Mr. Cowan, Sue Colonel, CGS General Music Instructor, led the Kindergarten, 1st Graders and 2nd Graders in the singing of a song titled, “Thank You Veterans”.
This song was very well performed, especially considering the youthful nature of the performers. They all knew their words to the song and did an amazing job of performing. This song hit close and connected well to the hearts of the veterans.
The 6rth Grade Band then played a very appropriate instrumental song titled, “American Pride”, as directed by Sue Colonel, CGS Band Director.
To bring the program to a very fitting close, the Junior High Band performed a most-popular patriotic song titled, “Marches of the Armed Forces”. This medley of theme songs of the various branches of the United States Military, always features and recognizes those veterans in attendance at an event.
The song featured the theme songs of the Marines, Army, Coast Guard, Air Force and Navy. Guest Speaker Todd Cowan had earlier informed the audience that the U.S. Space Force was the newest branch of the United States Armed Forces.
As the theme song for each branch was played, veterans of those branches were asked to stand and be recognized. This activity is always very much appreciated and enjoyed as veterans are honored and thanked for their sacrifices and service!
Approximately 50 veterans attended the 2023 CGS Veterans Day Assembly in their honor November 9. Students presented them with cards and other gifts following the program. Jim Beers Photo
Principal Grafton closed the 2023 Veterans Day assembly giving thanks to all who helped make it such a huge success. He also invited students who had made cards and other gifts for the veterans to please join those veterans on the floor to deliver their items and offer thanks for their service.