Return to Headlines

Philip Simmons High and Elementary go all out to express gratitude for veterans

Published Friday, November 8, 2019

Veterans Day at Philip Simmons High

Lt. Commander Stand Kempinger and his daughter Lilian wait for the Veterans Day ceremony to begin at Philip Simmons High. (BCSD photo / Monica Kreber) MORE PHOTOS

The word ‘veteran’ describes a person who has experience in a particular field.

This is how Chief Petty Officer, retired, Marvin Green explained the word, as he told an auditorium full of veterans, students and staff at Philip Simmons High about his own experience in the U.S. Navy.

From three different ships, to three different submarines, to working out in the field with the Marines, to working with the Fourth Tank Battalion – all of these things, Green said, add up to who he is today.

Green is the father of Philip Simmons High volleyball coach Jay Waterworth. Green used his background to encourage students to maybe seek out becoming a service member if they are trying to find something to do with their lives.

But he warned them: “The military is a calling, it’s not a job.”

“The Bible says it this way: there is no greater love than a man that’s willing to lay down his life for a friend,” he said.

The event was held Nov. 8 at Philip Simmons High. It was organized by English and theater teacher Taylor South.

South recalled when she was her students’ age she did not understand Veterans Day that much, but then becoming a military spouse gave her new perspective.

Some of the high school students are military families, Taylor said, but some don’t really understand what goes into it; Veterans Day is an opportunity for the students to understand what the men and women in the services do and see the unity behind it.

Taylor said she hopes the visiting veterans get a sense of compassion from the students, “and a feeling like they are supported and acknowledged and that we know that they are there and how much we appreciate them,” she said.

Taylor’s husband, Danny South, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, was among the veterans in the crowd. He spoke at last year’s event which, Taylor said, was more centered on military families, whereas this year the school opted to focus more on the veterans themselves.

Danny said he hopes Veterans Day gives students a little “glimpse behind the curtain” of what service members do.

“It’s also a chance to tell them ‘thank you’,” he said, referencing the support from families back home. “It’s not just the immediate family…it’s my neighbors who cut my yard when I’m out of town because it’s one less thing that my wife has to worry about, or they volunteer to take the kids for a couple of hours so my wife can go to the grocery store without the kids.

“So it’s not just the immediate family…it’s the community family that we can also say ‘thank you’ to,” he said.

Taylor said it is a day about unity, and bringing a community of schools together – “and just setting aside differences and obstacles and finding a moment of togetherness.”

Philip Simmons High went all out to express their gratitude to visiting veterans. The school produced 450 letters to Bert’s Big Thank You, an annual event organized by the morning radio talk show, The Bert Show, in which the station requests listeners to write and submit thank-you letters to be delivered to troops.

Ninth-grader Georgia Harris and 10th-grader Camille Fei performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Twelfth-grader Ashe Singleton and 11th-grader Emmett Gately served as the Masters of Ceremony.

The school aired a video of students and staff giving testimonials explaining their own connections to the military, and signing off with the message: “Thank you for your service.” The video was prepared by 11th-graders Colin Nemeth and Abby Szlosek. Veterans also viewed a slideshow of staff’s loved ones in uniform.

As a thank-you for speaking, and for his service, Green was presented a piece of student artwork created by 12th-grader Afua Lincoln.

Students from Philip Simmons Elementary also participated in the event at the high school. Fourth-graders Colin Price, Ty Healey, Sam Berden and Rose Wolf presented “America’s White Table,” The Philip Simmons Elementary Choir also sang a medley of patriotic tunes to visitors.

Lt. Commander Stand Kempinger, who is retiring next year from the U.S. Navy, joined his second-grade daughter, Lilian, in the crowd during the event; Lilian’s twin brother Tristan was among the choir students.

This is the second year Kempinger has participated in the Philip Simmons Veterans Day program.

“It’s the highlight of my year,” he said.

The high school’s Iron Horse Band finished up the production with “March of the Armed Forces,” during which veterans were called out by branch of military to stand and be recognized.


Monica Kreber