FeatureVetCeremony_DSF2749Dozens of military veterans were recognized a day early at Alachua Elementary School’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony. 

Invited as personal guests of students, staff and teachers, school principal Jim Brandenburg welcomed each of the veterans by name to Wednesday’s service held in their honor. 

Brandenburg recounted the beginnings of the annual ceremony.  At the urging of longtime Alachua resident and D-Day veteran the late Glynn Markham, Alachua Elementary School began recognizing veterans some 19 years ago, Brandenburg said.  Markham died in May 2007, but his legacy lives on in the numerous veterans’ memorials and services he saw to fruition.

“Veteran’s Day marks an important occasion for the Alachua Elementary family,” said Brandenburg, noting the large number of veterans who are part of that extended family.

One of the reasons the ceremony is held is to make sure the students know why they have the day off, Brandenburg said.  “Tomorrow is not just a day to goof off, but a time when you should take a few minutes to remember that veterans have made that day possible,” he told the students as they were gathered underneath the outdoor pavilion.

Officially kicking off the ceremony was the University of Florida’s Naval ROTC Color Guard.  Following a choral reading by “Uncle Sam,” everyone joined in for the Pledge of Allegiance.

A small group of chorus members led the school in several patriotic songs including “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Grand Old Flag.”  The school also sang Markham’s favorite, “God Bless America.” Closing out the ceremony were rousing renditions by the all of the school’s students of “This Land is Your Land” and “God Bless the USA.”

After the ceremony, Brandenburg invited veterans and their hosts to join him in the school’s cafeteria for a reception and breakfast also in their honor.