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Pahrump’s J.G. Johnson staff, students honor veterans

Veterans Day in the Pahrump Valley was marked by all sorts of events and ceremonies, including a touching show of patriotism and gratitude from one local school, J.G. Johnson Elementary.

Just before the holiday itself, on Friday, Nov. 8 the staff, students and families of J.G. Johnson came together for the Veterans Appreciation Assembly with former service members invited as the guests of honor.

As Disabled American Veterans Chapter #15 Commander Greg Cardarelli put it, the assembly was so heartwarming that by the end of it there was hardly a dry eye in the gymnasium.

As with any event to honor the military, the posting of the colors and Pledge of Allegiance were important features, with the Pahrump Valley High School JROTC Color Guard handling the duty of carrying and displaying the flags. J.G. Johnson Elementary Principal Debbie Carle and teacher Tammy Baltutat took the lead at the assembly, welcoming all attendees and extending an especially warm welcome to the many veterans who had turned out as well.

“We are here today to honor our heroes, you, our veterans, to remember their achievements, their courage, their dedication, and to say thank you for your sacrifices,” Carle said with obvious pride. “This process started over two months ago… when our family engagement chair, Tammy Baltutat, came to me and said, ‘I think we should do something for Veterans Day.’ And then the ideas just started rolling from there. Our entire school has worked very hard and we are excited to honor you this day.”

Next on the program was a special presentation by Battle Born Quilts of Valor, a newly organized chapter of the nationwide Quilts of Valor Foundation. Displaying a series of handmade quilts, the Battle Born Quilts of Valor members called forward one by one the recipients to drape the unique creations around the shoulders of five area veterans, including teachers Jennifer Dabney and Tracey Baker, social worker Ava Proulx, Darrell Moore and Larry Small Jr.

The assembly also included the reading of a thank-you letter by Baltutat, along with two sing-alongs performed by the students and conducted by J.G. Johnson music teacher Eric Kunzi.

First to be sung were the military services songs representative of each branch, followed by the patriotic ballad “Proud to be an American.” The young voices of the students rising in song to fill the air sent a thrill through the watching audience and prompted many smiles and misty eyes all around.

The program also featured a video created by J.G. Johnson teacher Whitney Lang, who compiled photographs of the students holding sheets of paper bearing the phrases “Because of your sacrifice, I can become…” and “Your service has granted me the freedom to have…”, each of which were filled in with a variety of responses from the youngsters. “Because of your sacrifice, I can become a police officer,” “a ballerina” and “a pilot” several read, while others stated, “Your service has granted me the freedom to have the right to vote,” “freedom of religion” and “to feel safe.”

The genuine expressions of gratitude from such young citizens obviously moved the veterans in attendance, who gave the students a standing ovation as the assembly came to a conclusion.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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