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Members of American Legion Post 209 display the colors at the start of the Veterans Day assembly inside the West Campus gymnasium Nov. 4. Principal Shalah Sims had instructed the children to stand and place their hands over their hearts as the colors were presented.

West all-school Veterans Day assembly teaches students price of freedom

Sgt. 1st Class Jose Lopez shakes hands with main speaker Bill Burd after the West Campus Veterans Day assembly. Looking on are Command Sergeant Major Tony Liles (far right), who is with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, stationed at Fort Carson, and his cousin Nicholas Liles, the West social worker.
Children got a lesson about what the military means to their country Nov. 4 at the West Campus.
       In an assembly timed for Veterans Day, the all-school assembly featured a speech by a former team leader at Arlington Cemetery and special recognition of a soldier who served three tours in Iraq and is retiring after 20 years. The campus, at 1920 W. Pikes Peak Ave., houses West Middle School (grades 6-8) and West Elementary (K-5).
       There were also patriotic songs performed by two school choruses and the middle school band; also Principal Shalah Sims identified teachers who have served in the military and had veterans in the audience stand and be applauded.
       The colors were presented by four members of American Legion Centennial Post 209.
       The speech by Bill Burd encouraged students to cherish the nation's flag, understanding that it represents the freedoms that allow them to become “anything they want.”
       Burd, who served six years in all (attaining the rank of Specialist E-4), noted that these freedoms come at a price, which is paid by the sacrifice of those who fight in the nation's military. He was aware of that first-hand at Arlington in 1962, helping bury soldiers who had died at that time in Vietnam.
       But that sacrifice stems from love of country. A recent example, according to Burd, was a Marine, unable to stand because he had lost his legs, raising himself with his arms from his wheelchair as the flag went by in a parade.
       The retiring soldier recognized at the assembly is Sgt. 1st Class Jose Lopez, whose wife Sarah is West's registrar.
       Lopez's honors include the Bronze Star, which recognizes achievements in combat. He is currently stationed at Fort Carson and will be retiring in early 2017.
       At the assembly, school building manager Walter Gray had Lopez come up to the podium, where Sarah surprised him with a shadow box she had secretly prepared that displays his military awards. “This was really touching,” Lopez said afterward. “I just about cried.”
       The assembly was organized by Sims, who grew up in a U.S. Navy family. At the assembly, she spoke of the importance of students understanding the significance of Veterans Day.
       Another Westside school planning a Veterans Day celebration is Coronado High School, which will host Jim Downing, 103, who survived the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. He will speak in two separate assemblies Thursday, Nov. 10, starting at 9:30 a.m. Those wishing to attend are advised to call ahead to the school office at 328-3600

Westside Pioneer article and photos
(Posted 11/5/16, updated 11/8/16; Schools: Elementary & Middle Schools)

Two choirs performed at the assembly. LEFT: The West Elementary fourth and fifth-grade choir, directed by Rebecca Gillespie (far right). Their song was titled "Thank You, Soldiers." RIGHT: The West Middle School Choir, directed by David Foster (not shown). They sang "We Honor You."
While the Veterans Day assembly audience looks on, band director David Foster conducts the West Middle School Band in a song titled "The Warriors."

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