With flags flying and patriotic music playing, students at Wester Middle School, Jerry Knight STEM Academy and Asa Low Intermediate School joined to honor members of the Mansfield ISD community who served in our country’s armed forces.
The schools had previously celebrated indoors, but in 2020 during COVID, they moved to an outdoor, drive-through parade where the veterans make a loop – driving past the three schools – and students line the sidewalks, holding hand-painted signs, to cheer them on.
Wester Middle School principal Kourtney Gates said the veterans loved the outdoor parade so much, they stuck with it. Gates says this is her favorite day of the year. On this cloudy, cool November day, Gates, wearing a Marines headband, walked along the parade route handing out dozens of miniature flags to her students.
“It’s a day where kids can show their hearts,” Gates said. “This is a day where they can honor veterans and think of others.”
Jerry Poteet, an 86-year-old Vietnam veteran, is in his second year of participating in the parade. His granddaughter attends Wester Middle School and rides alongside him in an open-air military vehicle.
“It’s a major holiday but you don’t normally find young people celebrating Veterans Day,” Poteet said. “We old guys do. but I’m thrilled that we’re putting this in the minds of our young people.”
For students like Kinley Pepperling, who have members of their family in the military, it’s meaningful to see others saying thank you to the veterans for their hard work and sacrifice.
“They are so determined to help all of us, and it just makes my heart feel warm,” Pepperling said.
Steve Burney spent four years in the Air Force and is now a commercial airline pilot. He hopes seeing the diversity of military veterans – men and women and from different backgrounds and branches of the armed forces – encourages students to consider serving their country.
“I think it’s a great lesson, and I think it’s a great thing for kids in general,” Burney said. “Coming out of high school – I didn’t know what I wanted to do. You grow up really quick and learn responsibility at a young age.”