Scarlett Middle School program: 'We should .. say thank you to those people who have given the ultimate sacrifice'
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Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor hosted a Memorial Day ceremony Friday to pay homage to those who have served in the military.
The school invited two active military members, Marine Sergeant Bao Lee and Navy Petty Officer First Class James Penney, to speak and share their experiences with sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Lee said it is necessary for children to be aware of the monumental sacrifices made.
“It’s important to honor service members who have given their lives,” Lee said.
Penney, who is a Scarlett and Huron High School graduate, said he agreed to participate in the event because he wanted the students to be aware of how fortunate they are to be in the United States.
“It’s important to recognize the freedoms we have,” Penney said. “ A lot places are very different from us.”
Lee and Penney were presented with plaques by the school to thank them for their service to the community.
English teacher Salvador Barrientes organized the event because he felt students should learn and understand the true meaning of the day. Barrientes served as a Marine from 1998 to 2005.
“This holiday is especially important to me and my family,” Barrientes said. “I was in the Marines many years before I became a teacher and we’re very blessed to be where we are and to live in this country and that comes at a great price.”
Principal Gerald Vazquez said he’s been at the school for more than two years and this was the first time an actual ceremony was held. He has plans to do more in the coming years.
“We’re hoping it can be an annual thing and we’re going to reach out to service people from Washtenaw County,” Vasquez said. “It was a good opportunity for us to break bread with the military.”
Barrientes explained to the filled auditorium that the day off from school is much more than just a day to relax.
“We should look back and say thank you to those people who have given the ultimate sacrifice— their lives,” Barrientes said. “Anyone that you know is in the military, tell them thank you.”
Barrientes said many of the students were looking forward to participating in the ceremony.
“Many of the kids were excited,” he said. “They kept asking who was coming to speak.”
During the presentation, a video was played to show how hard it is for families who lose their loved ones.
“With children, the notion of someone being gone is difficult, so I think if we can get them to recognize that people paid this ultimate price and that we have liberties because of these people, we did our job,” Vasquez said.
Chances to show thankfulness are abound, Vasquez said.
“There are lots of opportunities to be patriotic and we should seize those opportunities,” he said. “Our kids need to hear that over and over because I think sometimes it’s easy to forget.”