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West Jordan Journal

Purple Star school shows love to veterans

Nov 30, 2023 12:43PM ● By Jet Burnham

Thirty-three military veterans were honored at Westland Elementary school’s Veterans Day parade. (Photo by Jessica Amy.)

Thirty-three veterans were honored in a parade at Westland Elementary as part of their Veterans Day celebrations. The parade was led by bagpipe player John Barclay, West Jordan Mayor Dirk Burton and members of Herriman High School’s JROTC color guard. Students who had invited family members, neighbors and friends who have served or are currently serving in a branch of the military walked with their special guests along the school hallways, which were lined with students and faculty members applauding and waving flags.

Some students carried pictures of deceased veterans and others had displayed their pictures and dedications to deceased veterans on the Memorial Wall in the school’s front hallway.

Fifth-grader Emily McKnight invited her neighbor Jim Facer to attend. He shared some of his stories with her from when he served on a Navy destroyer.

“It’s neat because Emily has only heard of a destroyer playing the game Battleship,” Emily's mother, Christine said. “That’s the connections they make because they are so far removed from that world." 

In the program that followed the parade, students sang a medley of songs to recognize those who had served in each branch of the United States military. A beloved former Westland Elementary fifth grade teacher Kent Larson, a veteran, shared the history of Veterans Day. And Burton spoke with the students about the importance of honoring veterans and encouraged them to do their part to help make their community a safe place to live.

“You may not be an adult yet, you may not have served in the armed services yet, but you still can do things to make our community a good and safe place to live, and one of those things is showing dignity to each other,” Burton said.

The veterans, whose service ranged from World War II to currently active, were treated to a breakfast buffet after the program.

Westland Elementary was recently designated as a Purple Star School, the only school in Jordan District to have earned that distinction.

“A Purple Star School means that we’re a school who really tries hard to support our military families and I just couldn’t be prouder,” Westland Elementary Principal Laurie Goodsell said.

Military families receive extra support from Westland Elementary students and staff members, who try to ease their transition, which often occurs in the middle of the school year. Members of the student council give new students a tour of the school and a goodie bag with a Westland Wildcats T-shirt and a book. The school website has a tab specifically for military families to provide relevant information and links to resources.

Richard Packer walked in the Veterans Day parade with his daughter, giving hugs and high-fives to students he knows from being a regular school volunteer. Packer served in the Army for 20 years. He said when he was on active duty, he lived in military communities which provided a lot of support. However, after he retired a few years ago and moved into a nonmilitary community, he said the support wasn’t as prevalent.

Packer said military families need to feel supported and he is pleased to see the role his daughter's school is playing to encourage that support.

“It’s our family and friends and communities back home who make what we do possible,” he said. “So to have events like this, where we get to see the kids and see that we are an honored minority, that there is love and appreciation and respect and that so much time and effort has been put into helping us feel like we still matter and that what we did is valued.”

Packer said military service is physically demanding and comes with a price.

 “We can look around and see the evidence of what it cost to serve,” Packer said. “We carry those aches and pains with us every day, and today, it really doesn’t hurt as much for me, personally. It’s like the more full my heart is, the less my body hurts. These kids have absolutely filled my bucket today.” λ