Schools Celebrate Freedom

By: Todd Martin
Across Killeen ISD schools, even some of the youngest students did their part to honor some of America’s bravest heroes.
Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks against America that shocked a nation and brought a deep sense of unity.
With the passage of time, only the oldest current students were yet born that day and none remember the unfolding news of 9/11 as it happened.
That’s one reason, teachers and students said, it’s so important to continue to take time to remember.
At Peebles Elementary School, students filed through the hallways with banners and flags showing their support for America and for emergency first responders like police and firefighters as well as the military.
Similar parades, either outside or moved inside due to threatening weather, brought together school communities.
At Cedar Valley Elementary School, fifth-grade teachers Joseph Martinez and James Cook, both military retirees, shared with their grade level the proper way to fold a flag and facts about the American flag’s colors, stars and stripes.
Peebles Elementary Principal Carol Correa said the observance at her school served as a perfect time to unite Fort Hood adopt-a-school soldiers with students.
It was impossible to determine whether the uniformed soldiers or their young admirers enjoyed the morning parade more.
“It’s a morale booster for the unit to see kids,” said Sgt. Malik Kilduff of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. “We work a lot and it’s always great to get into the community.”
Sgt. Colleen Kildoo said the signs in the hallways and the students’ enthusiastic responses to their presence brought tears to her eyes. “I had to hold it back,” she said. “It was meaningful.”
Peebles fourth-grader Paola DeJesus said Tuesday was the day when a plane crashed into buildings. “We remember them today,” she said. “I was remembering the people. The soldiers reminded me.”
“I wanted them to show their love for soldiers and the community,” Correa said of the planned interaction. “I heard students saying ‘I got to touch their hand,’” the principal said. “It’s important for us to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in this great nation.”
Making posters of support and displaying those messages to soldiers was a teachable moment when students made connections, she said.
At Cedar Valley, fifth-graders made connections when their teachers, retired from more than 20 years of military service, showed them the proper way to fold a flag in tight triangles and hold the folded flag tightly against your chest.
The fifth-grade classes at Cedar Valley rotate flag raising duties through the school year.
“The flags are a symbol of Texas and America,” said fifth-grader Jo Licia Lewis. “It’s about freedom and justice. It’s fun that we get to see how the flag is put up.”
“It’s a way we get to show respect for our country,” said fifth-grader Joshua Cline.
“This is the day that planes crashed into the buildings,” Lewis said. “People sacrificed their lives, people like firefighters and the SWAT team and paramedics and even regular people.”
Cook, the teacher leading the flag lessons told students that they serve as their parents and other family members serve.
“I want them to see that they play a big part, too,” he said, noting that he leaned on his own wife and children during 22 years of service in the Army. “I understand they play a role.”
Many staff members at Cedar Valley are former soldiers. “We share our stories,” Cook said. “We try to give them the reality. It’s important to know about the terrorists’ (actions), but also about the strength and resolve that comes from it.”