News: 16th CAB talks Veterans Day with local schools
Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Veterans Day honors millions of men and women who currently or in the past have served in the United States Armed Forces. These sons, daughters, fathers and mothers sacrificed time away from their families to protect the United States’ future.
Soldiers from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division visited various schools in the communities surrounding Joint Base Lewis-McChord where they participated in Veterans Day celebrations as color guard members and guest speakers.
The guest speakers represented current service members and educated their audience on the importance of the holiday.
“For soldiers especially, Veterans Day is a special moment to not only recognize the service of all those in uniform, but to connect with Veterans that established our military as well as the citizens of the country we strive to protect,” said Col. Paul A. Mele, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade commander.
Veterans were treated to a hero’s welcome as they entered to hallways lined with American flags, posters and kids shaking hands and giving thanks.
“I actually got a warm feeling because the kids were making strong eye contact as they said thank you,” said Staff Sgt. Drayton, 16th CAB operations noncommissioned officer.
Drayton, also the 16th CAB color guard NCO in charge, visited Lister Elementary School while other officers and enlisted Soldiers visited Pacific Middle School in Des Moines, Baker Middle School in Tacoma and Brix Elementary School in Tacoma.
Schools invited prior service members to also participate in the events and be recognized.
“[Talking to the older veterans] put it in perspective for me because a lot of times I think of the military as it is now, and so to hear the veterans talk is humbling,” Drayton said.
Schools began their celebrations by performing skits, putting together musical performances or playing video presentations. As students sang songs like “God Bless America” and bands played official songs of each branch of service, entire audiences rose to their feet and gave honors to the American flag and veterans that were present.
“I’m a modest guy and don’t think my service warrants such a big piece of the pie when it comes to this holiday, but this celebration has helped me realize that it does because I deploy and I have a son,” Drayton said.
Each guest speaker, who was easily identifiable by their uniform, made their way through audiences to the stage. Speakers wearing their dress uniform like 1st Lt. John W. Lucero, 16th CAB operations officer, answered curiosity questions about each decoration on his jacket
Drayton displayed an alternative Army tradition with the uniform he wore.
“My ice breaker was to wear my cavalry Stetson and spurs so when I came in, kids were a little unsure about what uniform I had on,” Drayton said. “During my presentation, I talked about how certain services have modern-day cowboys.”
Each presentation led with the history of Veterans Day, and then guest speakers talked about personal experiences with the military that affected their lives.
At the end of their speeches, the guest speakers opened up the floor for questions. Kids’ curiosity seemed to skyrocket as hands shot up into the air.
“One kid asked me what kind of uniform was I wearing, and I made the mistake of saying that it was my duty uniform,” Drayton said. “The entire gymnasium of 200 people had a good laugh at the fact that I said ‘duty’.”
At the end of each celebration, veterans shook hands and gave high fives to students as they were released back to class.
“I felt very appreciated from everyone at the school,” Lucero said.