The 7-year-old daughter of Jim and Donna Jenkins was surprised when she saw him after the concert Thursday at Western Reserve Elementary School. Sitting with her grandfather and enjoying some juice and cupcakes, she said she felt “really happy” — and her face spoke volumes.
Robert Sullen, of Cleveland, said his granddaughter’s face lit up when she saw him.
“She didn’t see me” at first, said the U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1967 through 1970. “She did this,” he added, putting both of his hands on his face while smiling broadly and opening his eyes widely.
All the second-grade students performed a patriotic “Thank you, veterans” concert Thursday afternoon during school and again at night. The children in the classes taught by Sarah Boss, Gayle Kovach, Meg Stevens and Amanda Woodrum wore matching white T-shirts with “USA” in red, white and blue.
Directed by music teacher Deb Henry, the students sang such classics as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “America the Beautiful,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “God Bless the USA.” The concert began with “The Star Spangled Banner” and ended with a medley of songs from each branch of the military. Students held the military logos and asked audience members who served to stand up and be recognized. The finales were “God Bless America” and a trumpet player performing “Taps” off stage.
Mark Wargo attended the concert with his uncle, Tom Wargo, of Lorain, who served in the Navy from 1960 through 1966.
“Deb goes above and beyond with all her programs. I’m here for every music program,” said Mike, who believes Henry’s dedication to veterans is unmatched.
His uncle appreciated the patriotism, saying a musical tribute helps students better understand what it means to serve their country.
“There’s not enough of that these days,” he said. “They do a great job.”
Wakeman resident Vern Everts, a Vietnam veteran from the U.S. Army, has attended every Western Reserve musical tribute for the last 18 to 19 years. His granddaughter, Molly Canfield, now a WRHS social studies teacher, performed in the first program.
“It means a lot to the veterans; it really does,” Everts said.
Sullen said such tributes “makes me happy for the future,” especially given the often distorted media coverage on television.
“I’m glad to see this is going on. I’m sure this is going on in other communities in America,” he added.
His granddaughter, in the middle of the interview, told him she also wants to be in the military.
“I want to serve in the Navy because it runs in the family,” the second-grader said when asked why.
“If she served, she’d be the fourth generation,” Sullen added.