By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal
Last Friday, the staff and students of Miller Heights Elementary School hosted the annual Proud to be an American Day as they have for 48 years.
The Belton High School Marine Corps JROTC presented the colors as children donned red, white and blue clothing and waved small American flags. In addition to the celebration on campus, residents in the adjoining neighborhood sat in their chairs on the sidewalks, and waved to the children on as they paraded along the streets led by Belton High School Drum Line. Principal Jennifer Conner and Assistant Principal Lauren Brisbin greeted participants and about 150 guests at the event.
“We have been coming out and watching this parade from our driveway for 25 years now,” said Larry Lemmons, Miller Heights neighborhood resident. “My wife also taught school here for 25 years.”
The Miller Heights Honor Choir performed the Star Spangled Banner after the color guard finished posting the colors.
“Attending Proud to be an American Day for me, is part of my family’s history. My grandmother was Marie Cammack, and she taught all 20 of her years at Miller Heights and retired in 1986,” said Angela Garnes, attendee. “As little girl, I was an Air Force Brat and came back to the States to visit, and many times I got to attend Proud to be an American Day while I was visiting.”
U.S. Army Specialist Nicholas Cormier, of the 1st Battalion-12th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Ft. Hood (husband of teacher Katherine Cormier) was the guest speaker. As he stood in uniform, he led the event in reciting the Soldier’s Creed and reinforcing patriotic values to the students.
A real treat was to watch the surprised looks on the children’s faces as Lee Holmes performed a “fly-over” in his 1946 L-17, looping around the neighborhood a couple of times. Holmes has been doing the “fly-over” for nine years for the Proud to be an American celebration.
“Today we celebrated our 48th annual Proud to be an American event. This is an important tradition because multiple generations of the Miller Heights family gather to celebrate community, patriotism and service,” said Principal Conner.
“We were honored to have the American Legion, Kiwanis and Junior ROTC participate in our opening ceremony and the Belton High School drum line lead our neighborhood parade. It was a fun and festive day with our children and their families!”
Invited to the event were four seniors from Belton High School, who had all at one time attended Miller Heights Elementary School. The seniors reflected and spoke of their favorite memories and the inspirational teachers (many still teach there) to the students currently attending Miller Heights.
Senior speakers were Casie Robinson, Jackson Smith, Chardae Murray and Jasmin Yanez.
Three students were presented with special awards, and 15 were presented with Presidential Academic Excellence Awards during the awards ceremony.
Presidential Awards for Academic Excellence were awarded to: Elizabeth Alvarez, Calleigh Armstrong, Nathan Burrier. Jerrold Jones. Megan Larocque, Jett McCleney, Jameer McDade, Ayden Stanley, Willijah Watson and Maricella Finley.
Presidential Awards for Academic Achievement were given to: Angelina Goode, Kalyssa Hall, Mya Matulik, Sadie Rhoder and Shalese Rhoder.
Commander Jesse Wilson from American Legion Post 55, presented citizenship awards to students Luis Rodriguez and Jameer McDade.
Jeanette Kelley presented the Kiwanis Service Award and a $50 Olive Garden gift certificate to Ayden Stanley.
“This year’s Proud to be an American Day was an enriching experience for our students,” said Jillian Malone, Miller Heights music teacher. “Their minds and bodies were active all day and our sense of pride was immeasurable. What a great opportunity!”
After the awards ceremony and parade, students had the chance to enjoy a field day. Relays, obstacle courses, and creative play made for a very exciting day of fun learning. The tug-of-war tournament was very competitive and brought out the best in each class.
Other activities included shared reading time with patriotic books and a chance to watch some classic Schoolhouse Rock patriotic videos.
“This has been going on for almost fifty years. It represents the dedication of the school to the parents and students,” said Judy Owens BEEF. “A great show of patriotism and unity. I love how they have the alumni come back and talk to the students, very inspiring.”