Students sat in two groups on the floor of E.L. Ross and filled the back-wall stands. Parents waited with cameras ready beside their children’s peers. A line of veterans waited outside the gym and each veteran stood beside a young student.
“We talk a lot about our E.L. Ross family and we are not just referring to the students,” said Stacy Liner, teacher at Ross. “It is so important to stop and recognize these special occasions.”
Leslie Davis, teacher at Ross, welcomed the students and family members. She introduced Tom Cloud, chairman of the Cleveland Board of Education, who is a Vietnam vet. Cloud called out the veterans’ ranks, names and relationships to E.L. Ross students.
Veterans and their tiny relatives walked through the gym door to much applause and cheers. Most students led their veteran counterpart by taking their hand.
“One of the cool parts was when we were lining them up and they were calling them by their rank. You know, first petty officer, sergeant, corporal, first lieutenant — and you realize in this community we have a wealth of life experience,” Liner said.
Principal Lisa Earby originally had the idea to host a Veterans Day celebration. She pitched the idea and asked a committee to develop it. Stacy Liner, Karen Griffith and Janet Harris worked hard to lead the teachers involved in the group. It took them two months and many invitations to see the end product.
Liner said she was happy with the way the program turned out.
“I think a program like this brings history to life,” Liner said. “It gives the students a chance to connect personally with these veterans and their accomplishments. ... We are too quickly losing first-person accounts of these events.”
Veterans from as far back as World War II and as recent as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan were represented at the event. Liner talked excitedly about several, including Corp. Richard Tanksley and Kaye Arnold.
Tanksley is the great-grandfather of Jade McClary-Pierce. He served in the Air Force’s 878th Bombardment Squadron. Tanksley was active in World War II from Jan. 8, 1943, to Dec. 2, 1945. He was a gunner on the B-29 bomber. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft in service during the war. Several awards were given to Tanksley, including the Asian-Pacific Theater Ribbon, three Bronze Stars, a World War II Victory Ribbon, an American Theater Ribbon, and a Good Conduct Medal.
Liner said she is impressed by Arnold’s resume, as well.
“She served almost 30 years ago. Think about a woman achieving what she did at that time,” Liner said. “It says here she received the Expert Grenade Badge.”
Arnold is the grandmother of Isaiah Arnold. She served in the Army and was awarded the Good Conduct medal, 4th Oak Leaf Cluster, Army 3rd Oak Cluster, Service Ribbon, Oversea Medal, Southwest Asia Medal, Marksman Badge, Expert Grenade badge, and she was a member of the 300 Club for Physical Fitness.
“Before the program, we had the veterans and their relatives in the library for refreshments,” Liners said. “I talked to several of them and two of them told me, ‘I’d do it [service] all again.’”