• November 13, 2019

Hays pays tribute to veterans - Odessa American: ECISD

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Hays pays tribute to veterans

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  • SAYING THANKS

    Odessa Police Department Community Relations Officer and Army Veteran Cpl. Michael Hamilton picked up 9-year-old Davion Palma while answering questions from the students. Sparklight and HISTORY teamed up with Hays STEAM Academy to host a Take a Veteran to School Day. Veterans were honored by student programs including the Permian Color Guard and the Hays Honor Choir.

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2019 5:16 pm

Hays STEAM Academy students turned out in force to honor veterans Friday in the school gym.

Service members from all branches of the military were honored and students had a chance to ask them questions and mingle with them at a reception in the campus library. They also gave their own interpretation of the book “H is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet,” for the audience.

Sparklight, formerly Cable One, organized the event as part of HISTORY’s Take a Veteran to School Day outreach initiative.

A number of veterans related to students and teachers were in attendance, as well as three Navy veterans who now work for Sparklight: Gena Maldonado, warehouse technician; Guy Means, advance technician; and Johnny Thomas, advance technician. And the service members shared their stories with students.

Veterans Day is Monday.

Odessa Police Department Cpl. Michael Hamilton, a community relations officer, and Sgt. Yuri Herrera served in the Army and Navy, respectively. Hamilton said he was a military police officer who was in for six and a half years. He was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

Hamilton said fellow military members always give each other a good ribbing, but when they have to come together they are the strongest in the world. He added that there is nothing more valuable than coming back home and giving a positive presentation to students.

Asked how many bad guys he’s put in jail, Hamilton said Herrera puts more in jail. She was a petty officer second class when she left the Navy. She was stationed in California, but did a tour in Kuwait.

“She is awesome,” Hamilton said.

He said he has used pepper spray three or four times, but when he uses it, the wind usually blows it back in his face.

Principal Julie Marshall said close to 90 students participated in the program, including the honor choir.

“I think it went really well. Our kids were very excited and the questions they came up with to ask the veterans were very thought provoking. They’re very mature for elementary kids,” Marshall said.

Marshall said she thinks it’s important for students to see what veterans do in and out of uniform and for them to realize that they are real people who live around them, but “chose to make a sacrifice for our country.”

Charles Taylor, a Navy veteran, and his children Hays students, Kamiya and Cayden, enjoyed the program.

Kamiya, a 9-year-old fourth grader, said she liked the book “H is for Honor.”

Cayden liked meeting the police officers from the Navy and Army. He said he wants to join the Navy like his dad.

Charles Taylor served in the Navy for seven years, taking part in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Taylor, who is from Odessa, joined the military to travel and see the world.

“I enjoyed it. I met a lot of great people; friends for life,” he said.

Joseph McDonald, a Marine Corps veteran, said the program was cute. He has two children who attend Hays.

“I took the day off to come and I’m glad I did. I’m actually glad schools are still doing stuff like this,” McDonald said.

Ronda Rodriguez, a teacher at Ector College Prep Success Academy, was in the Army and now serves in the National Guard.

“It was amazing,” Rodriguez said of the program. “They really thought this through and it was well planned. …”

Take a Veteran to School Day is HISTORY’s popular public affairs outreach program, connecting veterans from all walks of life with students in schools and communities nationwide, a news release said.

Sparklight General Manager David Williams said it’s been a privilege to sponsor and host Take a Veteran to School Day at several of the public schools in Odessa.

“We’ve been to Cavazos, to Blanton and several others,” Williams said. “Each year, Mike Adkins (communications officer) of ECISD recommends a school for us and we’re glad to come.”

“It is a highlight of the year for Sparklight to be able to connect students with veterans. As a company, our whole motto is to connect people to what matters most and this is a perfect example for us that we’re able to be a part of Odessa in a very special way,” Williams added.

Sparklight had about 15 employees attend and three of them were veterans.

As part of this campaign, HISTORY offers participating schools curriculum-based educational materials at www.veterans.com as well as short videos and additional resources, all provided free-of-charge. HISTORY also honors veterans through a social campaign in which people acknowledge the veterans in their lives using the hashtag #honoravet.

Odessa, TX

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