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    By Todd Martin

    Waving tiny American flags and singing touching songs of tribute, students across the Killeen school district expressed heartfelt thanks Thursday to military service members past and present.

    At Meadows Elementary School at the edge of the east gate of Fort Hood, second-graders sang a patriotic song thanking veterans as an audience of middle school students in Madison, Alabama watched via webcast.

    After singing, each student stepped up to the laptop computer that served as portal across three states and introduced themselves and identified their mom, dad or both were in the Army.

    With teary eyes, their teacher of 24 years, Jennifer Holcomb shook her head. “It gets me every time,” she said, following her students’ pair of web-based performances and a live one for parents.

    About 150 uniformed soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Fire Artillery Regiment, Meadows’ adopt-a-school unit, paraded through the hallways to the enthusiastic cheers of students, practically all of them military dependents.

    “It’s fabulous,” said Maj. Peter Salfeety, the ranking battalion officer with the unit, which continues a redeployment home. “The community outreach here is phenomenal.

    “There is resounding support from the kids and it’s a really moving experience. We’re thankful.”

    During two assemblies connected with the school in Alabama near the Red Stone Arsenal, Killeen High School assistant principal Lance Malburg served as guest speaker, joining the event remotely from his KHS office.

    As a college student at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Malburg said he was moved to join the military, eventually serving in a military intelligence battalion in Iraq, where an attack sent him home to Fort Hood in 2008.

    As he served in the rear detachment, he earned a master’s degree and then worked as an elementary teacher and then assistant principal at the elementary, middle school and now the high school level.

    “On this day, what I think about are sacrifice and service,” he said. About half the 2,300 students enrolled at KHS have military ties, he told the students in Alabama, noting that family members also serve.

    All 22 of Holcomb’s students verified their military connectivity, with parents retired or serving currently and some now deployed.

    “It was good,” second-grader Elizabeth Napoli said of the events paying tribute to veterans. “I liked that we were telling people our names.”

    She said it was important to honor soldiers because not many people serve and her dad is one who does. “We need to celebrate it,” she said.

    “I really liked it because I like singing a lot,” said second-grader William Hay. “You have to celebrate people in the Army who retired especially if they got hurt. I think soldiers are important to the country because they protect us.”

    Meadows Elementary School in Killeen ISD connected with the Alabama middle school during a Military Child Education Coalition conference. The two schools participate in assemblies and robotics competitions via webcast.

    SHOEMAKER HIGH SCHOOL

    At Shoemaker High School, Junior ROTC cadets hosted a breakfast for faculty members and guests who have served in the military. During an assembly, students honored American veterans, including the late Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker.

    In a slide show, several cadets read off Shoemaker’s extensive military and community service accomplishments. “We honor you, we love you and we miss you,” said cadet Crystal Kinsinger, an SHS senior.

    MANOR MIDDLE SCHOOL

    Also Thursday, Manor Middle School students held signs and waved flags as visiting military veterans made their way through the hallways and the school’s drum line played.

    Following a breakfast and choir performance, one of the veteran guests, Killeen city councilman Jim Kilpatrick told Manor students that service is a daily commitment.

    “Serve at your school, serve at your church,” he said. “We place our future in students’ hands and I see our future as being very bright.”

    Samantha Solliday contributed to this report

    November 9, 2017

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