Pelham elementary schools celebrate Veterans Day

Published 3:53 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

PELHAM – On Friday, Nov. 10, students at Pelham Oaks and Pelham Ridge had the chance to learn about the history of Veterans Day and to meet former members of the Armed Services.

“I just think it’s a great way to honor those who served our country,” said Pelham Oaks Principal Chase Holden.

As part of their celebrations, Pelham Oaks students participated in a schoolwide essay contest about veterans. The winners of this contest then had the chance to read their essays during a school assembly attended by local veterans and members of the community.

“A lot of times it’s family members of students,” Holden said. “We’re never sure how many to expect but we accept anybody who comes.”

Pelham Ridge celebrated Veterans Day differently by creating a slideshow and video honoring the various veterans nominated by students and parents. The presentation was then viewed by students in their classrooms, and was followed by a parade through the hallways of the school by students and visiting veterans.

“This was the second year that we have honored the veterans in this way.,” said Pelham Ridge Library Media Specialist Laura Reeves. “Before COVID, we would do a program in the gymnasium, but the students had to sit in silence for most of the program. The veterans expressed to us last year that they loved seeing the students cheering in the hallways and much preferred this type of program, so this is why we have changed it to the parade style.”

Despite having different celebrations, both schools took time to educate students on the history of Veterans Day, and how the holiday actually had its origins in Alabama.

Veterans Day initially began as Armistice Day which commemorated the cessation of hostilities with Germany after World War I. However, it was not until 1945 that Veterans Day became the holiday it is known as today.

In 1945, after serving in the American Navy during World War II, Birmingham native Raymond Weeks came up with the idea that Armistice Day should be set aside to honor veterans of all wars, not just World War I.

The next year, Weeks wrote and personally delivered his petition for a “National Veterans Day 1947” to then Army Chief of Staff, General Dwight Eisenhower. The first Veterans Day was subsequently held in Birmingham in 1947, but it would not be until seven years later, in 1954, that President Eisenhower would officially rechristen Armistice Day as Veterans Day and it became a national holiday honoring all veterans of the military.

Pelham Oak and Pelham Ridge’s Veterans Day celebrations are a testament to that rich history, and the honor deserved by past and present members of the armed services.

“I feel that the most memorable moment of our event was when a grandfather spoke after the sing-a-long,” Reeves said. “He talked about how important it was for veterans to be able to get together with comrades and be able to talk about their time in service, and expressed gratitude for the recognition of the veterans.”